If you’ve been in a car driven by someone who frequently slows unexpectedly, lurches forward, or turns unpredictably, you know what it’s like to listen to a sermon lacking clear and steady movement. A preacher’s sporadic stops, restarts, and repetitions unsettle you as you try to understand his main point. Here are five ways to ensure your sermon has seamless movement and transitions from introduction to conclusion:
- Have a clear proposition, and state it often. Every sermon should have one main point derived from the primary concern of the biblical text. This “proposition” is the sermon reduced to a simple statement such as “There are right ways of thinking when suffering for Christ.” Like entering a destination on a GPS, the proposition charts our course and tells our hearers they are, in fact, going somewhere. As a general rule, state the proposition in the introduction, with each sermon point, and in the conclusion.
- Use effective transitions. Transitional statements make for smooth turns in the sermon from one road to the next. Like a thoughtful tour guide, the preacher communicates where the hearers have been and tells them where they are going next. One of the most effective transitions is the simple “Not only, but also” construction: e.g., “God’s providence not only blesses Christians (point 1 of the sermon), but also blesses non-Christians (point 2).”
- Write out your sermon. Taking time to write down what you plan to say allows for greater clarity in sermon delivery. Whether writing a full manuscript or a substantive outline, you can visually inspect your work and see whether your proposition is clearly stated in the introduction, coheres with the sermon points, and runs seamlessly to the conclusion. Thoughtful writing tends to result in better movement in the sermon.
- Consider writing the conclusion first. Occasionally, it may be helpful to write the conclusion before writing the rest of the sermon. This unconventional practice helps the preacher avoid straying from the “main road” of the exposition. Mapping out the final destination in advance means the preacher is more likely to stay on course and steadily move his hearers to a meaningful conclusion.
- Review your sermon several times before preaching it. Going over the sermon again and again provides the preacher opportunities to think through the logical flow of his message and determine if there is continual movement from introduction to conclusion. He can also fix unclear statements and adjust the sermon transitions as needed to drive his hearers purposefully toward a specific call for response.
Preachers, what would you add to these ideas?