Euripides said a bad beginning makes a bad ending.
That’s definitely true in sermons. Like a front porch of a house, your introduction should welcome people to the message. Your first five minutes are really important. They often determine if people will listen to the rest of the minutes.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “I felt that in preaching, the first thing that you had to do was to demonstrate to the people that what you were going to do was very relevant and urgently important.”
Here are three powerful ways you can start your sermon.
1. Tell the first part of the story.
When it comes to making an emotional connection, stories work better than points. So if you want to connect with the congregation in the first five minutes, tell a story.
But here’s a hint: Just tell the first part of a story and save the ending for later.
You’ve seen this technique in movies and TV shows, and it’s drawn you into a story. Introduce a story in the first five minutes, but leave the ending up in the air. Move through your content and then come back to your story, connecting it to your point.
2. Start with a powerful statement.
Instead of bantering with the audience, welcoming everyone or giving context, you could simply start with a powerful statement.
When you stand on the platform or in the pulpit, allow a few seconds of silence to hang in the air. Then deliver your opening statement with power.
“Once I have a good angle established by the introduction, I go back and craft a strong opening sentence,” says Chuck Swindoll.
He believes this opening statement should be short and memorable. He memorizes it, and this one powerful statement begins every message.
3. Say, “At the end of this message, I’m going to ask you to ______.”
When you tell people what you’re going to ask them to do, it’s kind of shocking. Most people are used to a preacher who builds a case and saves the ask until the end.
Instead, you can just come right out and say what you’re going to do in the message, and give them the action step at the beginning.
I used this technique one time in a message on volunteering. My opening words went something like this:
“At the end of this message, I’m going to ask you all to fill out the card in your seat. And for the next 30 minutes, I’m going to do everything I can to convince you to serve. That’s where we’re going and that’s what I’m going to ask you to do.”
People didn’t expect that direct of an approach, but it worked.
There are three interesting ways you can start your message. What other ideas can you share? Have you started a message in an interesting way?