7 Reasons We Need to Spend More Time on our Sermon and Lesson Introductions

Yesterday, I wrote about why we need to give more time to our conclusions when we’re preaching and teaching. Today, I want to talk about the importance of giving more attention to our introductions as well. In the past, I’ve written about how I’ve changed my introductions over the years – but I, too, need to continue to improve in this area. Here’s why an introduction matters: 

  1. A strong, clear introduction says, “The Word of God is the foundation for this preaching or teaching.” It’s the opportunity to grab the attention of the listeners while also directing their attention to the Scriptures. Even if they don’t all accept the authority of the Bible, your listeners should quickly know you’re teaching the Word. 
  2. It doesn’t take long for an audience to recognize you’ve not prepared well—and a poorly designed introduction is often a sign of that failure. As soon as they get the impression you’ve not spent much time in study, paying attention will be more difficult. 
  3. In the first few moments of the introduction, our listeners will determine (rightly or wrongly) our own passion for the subject and confidence in the Word. When we’ve spent significant time in preparing, learning, and even memorizing our introduction, we can stand before others with greater confidence and authority. This is also why I often begin with a personal story I know well and can communicate personally and passionately. 
  4. In preaching, ideally, the musical portion of the worship service has prepared the hearts of the people to hear and obey the Word of God—and the sermon introduction builds on that foundation. Everything prior to the preaching ought to make people ready to hear – and a poor introduction can counter all the previous preparation. 
  5. Many of our listeners carry baggage from life, and their attention is often focused elsewhere. They may want to listen, but their burdens grab them and overwhelm them. Quickly drawing them into a sermon or a lesson takes intentionality and planning. 
  6. A good introduction states the central truth of the biblical text and lets the hearers know why that teaching is relevant to their lives. Listeners will pay more attention if they quickly learn that the point of the sermon or lesson speaks clearly to their lives. In that sense, application begins with introduction. 
  7. An introduction that’s too long ultimately takes away time for teaching the Word. When I do preaching coaching, I ask preachers to see how long it takes them to get to the Word once they’ve stepped into the preaching or teaching role. Often, they’re surprised by how much time they spend in the introduction – and they learn why they’re sometimes rushed at the end of a sermon or lesson. 

For two days now, we’ve talked about conclusions and introductions. Which do you find easier? What struggles have you faced? What preparation steps have worked for you?  


  • Kyle says:

    Conclusions are easier for me. I loved illustrations to the intro. Helps me get in the mind frame and the listener. I struggle more with transitions but feel as though my strength would be conclusions.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    It is conventional wisdom that congregational singing and other forms of church music prepare the hearts of the congregation to hear and obey God’s Word but I must question whether that this is always the case. Church services that begin with what used to be called the “music service” are modeled on the revivals and camp meetings of the nineteenth century, in which the “preaching service,” the sermon, followed by exhortations to the congregation to repent and believe, and prayer over those who “walked the sawdust trail” was the main event. Praise and worship songs sung by the vocalists of a band have replaced the hymns and gospel songs sung by the congregation in contemporary church services and the extent these songs put attendees of the service in the right frame of mind for the sermon is debatable. For ten years or thereabouts I was involved in a church whose services were a twenty-first century adaptation of the nineteenth century revival meeting. I usually sat in the back with the tech team and was able to observe the entire congregation from where I was seated. Some attendees attempted to sing along with the band’s vocalists even though the loud volume of the band drowned out their singing—to prevent them the embarrassment of hearing themselves sing or so I was told. Other attendees stood and listened to the band. A number of attendees looked at their cell phones and were obviously more absorbed in what was happening on their cell phones than what was going on in the room. On at least one occasion a young couple kissed and groped each other during the music portion of the service. Was the music shifting the congregation’s attention away from worldly concerns and refocusing their attention on God? In some cases it may have. In other cases it clearly was not. Now I come from a liturgical church background and in the traditional churches in that ecclesiastical tradition a hymn is often sung before the sermon which usually follows two or three readings from Scripture with a psalm or other Scripture song, sung between the first two readings and echoing themes found in these readings. In smaller churches that lack musical leadership the psalm or a canticle, a song taken from Scripture, may be recited rather than sung. The Scripture, in the readings and the psalm or canticle, is what prepare the hearts of the congregation for the sermon which was usually a exposition of a passage from one of the readings or the psalm. On occasion it may be a topical sermon suggested by a passage from these readings or the psalm. The thinking is that the Holy Spirit through the recitation of Scripture, puts the service’s attendees in the right frame of mind for the exposition of God’s Word. The singing of a hymn before the sermon is supposed to complete this sequence. But often as not it is unrelated to everything that has preceded it and takes the congregation in an entirely different direction. Consequently, in contemporary services in the same ecclesiastical tradition the hymn is omitted: nothing is allowed to come between the reading of Scripture and its exposition. This has implications for the introduction of the sermon. In traditional services it must undo what the hymn has done, taken the congregation in a different direction from the Scripture preceding the sermon. In contemporary services the introduction helps to establish a link in the minds of the congregation between the Scripture and its exposition.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    When I reread my comment, I noticed that I had made an omission. I meant to say, “The thinking is that the Holy Spirit through the reading and recitation of Scripture, puts the service’s attendees in the right frame of mind for the exposition of God’s Word.” The service may begin with an opening hymn or medley of worship songs sung by the congregation but the reading and the recitation of Scripture is what carries the main burden of preparing the congregation for the sermon. The opening hymn or songs serve the purpose of drawing together a loose aggregate of people into a worshiping assembly. as well as of offering praise and thanksgiving to God.

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