You don't need a personality to Make Memorable Messages.

homiletics how to preach sermon introductions Sep 30, 2023
How to make sermon introductions

You may not know this about me...

But I wrote a SciFi thriller romance novel...

I know, I know...

Not what you think a Pastor would ever write.

But in my defense, I wrote it while in college. (if you are interested in reading it... hit me up haha... just don't judge me too harshly)

 

The reason I bring this up, is because writing that novel taught me so much about communication.

  • There is a need to hook the reader from the first sentence with hopes they'll read the next... and the next...
  • There is a need to take the reader on a journey that changes them.
  • There are literary tools that add beauty and nuance to the transmission of truth.
  • and writing can be fun :)

One lesson that transferred from writing a novel to preaching is "the need to create curiosity in the listener."

Too often preachers don't help people see why they should be listening in the first place... and so people are sitting there asking that question instead of listening to what you are saying.

 

Our Goal is to clearly declare the truth of the Word...

I think creating curiosity helps...

 

But how do we make long-time church goers curious about the Bible again?

That is an interesting question.

Let's grab a cup of coffee and see if we can find some answers.

 

 

ANSWER: Create a Curiosity "Gap"

Mysteries are powerful because they create a need for closure.” — Robert Cialdini

Have you ever listened to a sermon and spent the whole time wondering what they were trying to get across?

I have...

And that is not the curiosity gap you want.

 

 

So what is the Curiosity Gap?

In their book, "Made to Stick," Chip and Dan Heath quote behavioral economist George Loewenstein when He suggested: 

“curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.”

 

This is so true!!

I hate...

starting a bad movie... 

and yet having to finish it because...

I HAVE TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS!

(sorry for shouting... it really irritates me :) )

 

But that is the power of curiosity gaps...

When we know we don't know something... we want to know it.

I believe this is a good way to help people receive the truth of Scripture in a way that sticks with them.

We as preachers and teachers have to give the effort to create the mystery.

 

Case in Point: I was working on this and came across a silly headline, "Wheel of Fortune Contestant's Epic Win Makes Pat Sajak Walk Off Set..."

And I had to read the entire article...

I knew almost everything about that phrase...

Except one thing...

Why did he walk off?

And I had to read. (and I enjoyed the read too!)

They could have taken the same truth and made it so boring and uninteresting that I never would have read...

But they put in the effort to show me something...

And they did it in a way that opened a gap in my knowledge.

And filling that gap felt good.

And I'll remember that story... and even share it with others :) 

 

Can we do that with our Church Members?

Can we help them be curious about the truth of Scripture?

Would that not be serving them?

Would that not be leading them to delicious green pastures?

 

I believe it would be!

 

 

Where do we create that curiosity gap though?

The introduction is the place to hook the audience and give them something to be curious about.

So I've committed to give serious thought to my introductions. 

Here are some ways I have found to open curiosity Gaps.

 

1. Make a promise of transformation

When opening, I find it useful to

  1. show them that the problem the Bible is discussing is a problem we all face... even them.
  2. I then show them how it is affecting them.
  3. But God has a better way.
  4. And they can know it, if they will listen to what the Bible has to say in this passage...

It may go something like this...

  • "We hate it when someone drags our name through the mud (problem)... 
  • Often we loose sleep, snap at our friends and family more often, and sometimes even resort to defending ourselves... all with the goal of keeping our good name...(show how it hits home)
  • But what if I told you, God had a better way... What if I told you you could have peace and rest despite someone trying to ruin you?
  • Well that is exactly what Psalm 4 promises... but how? Join me for the next 30 minutes, and you will know how to have Perfect Peace even when someone is trying to ruin you.

 

In this example we are promising a transformation from the truth of the Word of God.

Every Pastor or Teacher believes the Word of God changes lives...

Why not tell the people how?

 

The transformation we are promising in this example is from anxious to peaceful... 

The catalyst... the truth in Psalm 4.

 

You as the preacher/teacher are not the change agent... 

You are simply the guide to understanding the Word... 

The Word changes lives... 

You merely assure them it will.

 

2. Use "steps" toward a desired goal (each unknown step automatically invokes curiosity)

When you lay out your message in "steps toward a desired goal" (example: steps to a clear conscience)...

Not only are you using rule 1 because you promise a transformation... 

You are also using the automatic knowledge gap... "What are the steps?"

Then once they know step 1... the gap is... "what is step 2?"

TIP: If you are going to use steps, tell them in the introduction how many steps. This will help them stay engaged and not feel like your sermon will never end.

 

3. Hint at the shocking nature of the Scripture you will be covering  

The Bible is full of surprises!

If it surprised you... tell them.

It will help them be curious about why.

(Many preachers and teachers are afraid to use this. They think, "I'll sound foolish for being surprised by so simple a story... what if it's not surprising to them..." But friend that is not what creates the curiosity gap... what creates the gap is "Why is my pastor or teacher surprised." Even if they already knew what happens in the story... they will enjoy learning what surprised you from this passage... and hence filling the gap you created.)

Here are a few examples:

  • “I had no idea this story was in the Bible…”
  • The truths in this passage may shock you…
  • You won’t believe what Jesus wrote in the sand...
  • This verse changed my life
  • etc.

The Bible is full of interesting and powerful truths. 

Help your people become curious.

 

Truthfully, there are many ways to open a mystery of what is to come.  

Here are a few tips

  • Do this in the introduction
  • Do it before each new point (continual mystery helps keep the people engaged.)

 

Common Pitfall:  The Curse of Knowledge  

In the book I referenced above, "Made to Stick" the authors reference "the curse of knowledge."

They say that this curse often keeps us from hooking our audience.

 

What is the curse of knowledge?

It's like this... "once you know something, it is hard to remember what it was like not to know it." 

To put it another way, you think "since you know the truth, everyone does."

  • You are blind to the way it could be mysterious or beneficial.
  • You preach crustily, because you are afraid of sounding trite (everyone already knows this… so if I am excited I may seem juvenile)

This is often what keeps us from preaching simple truths.

  • We think, "There is nothing mysterious about John 3:16… everyone already knows what that means…"
  • So we come off as though the Bible is uninteresting... not because it is... but because we assume everyone already knows what the Bible says.
    • And when we come off that way... don't be surprised when people think the Bible is uninteresting.

Err on the side of showing people how interesting you believe the Bible is... even if they don't agree.

 

Why go through this trouble?  

Simply, The goal is communication of God’s truth to the conscience of the listener.

  • The Holy Spirit convicts, enlightens, and draws…
  • But we are the deliverer of the Message. “How shall they hear without a preacher.”

Many preachers and teachers think that because they are talking about the Bible, people will listen… 

So they are lazy in how they communicate it.  

I think we should give it our all.

 

Here is a secret:

  • you don’t need a flamboyant personality to use mystery…
  • You don’t need fancy language
  • You don’t need a PhD
  • You don’t need much more than the willingness to see the truth of Scripture from their point of view, and how it can benefit/change them.

That means, everyone can use this to help people understand the Word.

 

Taking your listener on the journey, and helping them become curious about the Bible, is a beautiful thing.  

Realize this my friend...

That curiosity you spark...

Could turn into a lifetime of voracious study of the Word in the people who listen to you... 

as they discover… 

the Bible... 

truly... 

is... 

interesting!

May God bless you as you communicate His Word faithfully!

P.S. please... this is not saying try to find new interpretations of the Bible to sound fresh... that is foolish, dangerous and arrogant... there is one interpretation... find it and think about how to open a knowledge gap around it. Hopefully that makes sense :)

 

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in the book, Made to Stick, feel free to use the hyperlinks. By using them you will also be helping support the channel as they are amazon affiliate links. That adds nothing to your cost, it just takes some of what would go to amazon and sends it our way to help us keep this ministry going. Thanks again for reading!

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