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The biblical text should be the grand centerpiece of every sermon. But we often take what should be the centerpiece, and move it to the front of what we have to say. In most cases, reading the text should come first in importance, but not first in the order of a message. Whether you’re looking back at Plato or Jesus, virtually every culture has had great communicators who realized the power of attention-grabbing hooks.

1. Start with a deep, human need instead of jumping right into the exegesis and historical-grammatical analysis of the text. When you move from the need to the text, people have the context of its meaning for their lives.

2. Launch with a relevant story. We remember stories that are vibrant, funny, and powerful. And stories connect my heart to the text before my head grabs hold of it.

3. Tell a joke. That is, if you’re funny. I know a fellow Pastor who served a very discouraged congregation, but after years of opening with humor, they experience joy together every week.

4. Use an object lesson. You may not be able to match Ed Young’s capability to drive a tank on stage to illustrate spiritual warfare, but you can hand out puzzle pieces to represent how we all “fit” in God’s family or hold up your shoes as an illustration of an essential need many people live without.

5. Begin with someone’s testimony. This is also great for the middle of the message, but having someone address your topic from their life’s experience shows the congregation that there are others who struggle and others who overcome. Your words have increased credibility when someone “normal” has already proven the practical possibility of achieving what you’re about to preach.

6. Share the results of some word-on-the-street interviews. You can find these clips, or film them yourself as a chance to connect with your community. If you’re going to preach an apologetic message, interview people about their religious viewpoints.

7. Show a related video clip. Some great storytellers and artists have invested their talent into framing concepts in motion pictures. Take advantage of their work for the purpose of setting up your message in an artistic way.

8. Talk to the crowd. This, of course, depends on your setting, but with text messaging and Twitter, we can talk with our audience in real time as never before, fielding questions and allowing the crowd to speak to itself as we teach.

Our options for opening a message are almost limitless, but what we don’t have to do is jump right into the text. It’s still the most important thing we will share all day, but it doesn’t have to come first.

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John E Miller

commented on Nov 8, 2011

Plato and Jesus, in that order! What a wonderful introduction! Lest any reader be in doubt, Plato was a Greek philosopher. God the Father announced from heaven that Jesus was His Beloved Son. Mr Cox has been well instructed by his mentor, Rick Warren.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Nov 8, 2011

John E Miller, I left a comment for you under Mr. Raymond's article from yesterday. I hope to hear a response from you.

John E Miller

commented on Nov 9, 2011

Mr Villegas, I suggest that if you wish to initiate a discussion by putting up the doctrines and beliefs of the SDA sect, I and others would welcome the opportunity to comment on their biblical basis, or otherwise. What I will not do is discuss these issues in a forum on which they have no relevance. I am not the only contributor who has noted your propensity to drape yourself in the robes of a moderator. I will pray for you.

Brandon Cox

commented on Nov 9, 2011

John, I said FROM Plato TO Jesus. In other words, FROM a skilled public speaker and ancient philosopher TO the timeless, eternal Son of God... but nice stretch there to take a shot at Rick, who isn't even mentioned in the article. That took some skills. Who is your mentor?

John E Miller

commented on Nov 9, 2011

Brandon, with great respect I would refer you again to your words, which we can read above. Reading them, it comes across that you equate Plato with Jesus. You also seem to equate one culture, i.e. Greek phiosophy, with another culture (your words), Christianity. You suggest that Plato and Jesus are "great communicators". I'm sorry if I offend you in any way and I appreciate your intervention. However, I feel that this contrived and stereotyped approach to preaching God's word leaves little room for the Holy Spirit of God to manifest His power in the service. I preached for the first time in my teens and will be 70 on my next birthday. I have never thought it necessary to tell funny stories, crack jokes or to startle my audience with film clips or tanks on stage. Sometimes a little humour can be a help, but to plan a service, necessarily incorporating all this artificial baggage is not how I understand the spreading of the greatest story ever told. The centrality of the cross must be foremost in the mind of any and every servant of God who professes to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In my experience, I have observed preachers who have a genuine ability to use off-the cuff humour to press home a point. I have also cringed at preachers who have tried unsuccessfully to be artificially funny and there are many. However the worst are the preachers who are absolutely confident of there own status as comedians, oblivious to the fact that this estimation of their own qualities is not shared by the audience. Recently I witnessed this and when the speaker noticed the absence of any response to his "funny" story, he dug himself into a deeper hole with the confident remark, "You're allowed to laugh!" The sad thing about all this is that in many churches today, predominantly the larger ones, there are many in the congregation who enjoy being entertained and success is measured thus.

John E Miller

commented on Nov 9, 2011

Brandon, please forgive me for not addressing your remarks about the Rick Warren angle. The whole tone of your advice spoke loudly of the so-called "Seeker Sensitive" approach. It demonstrated an approach to preaching that has the hearer as subject and object, though of course proponents of this approach will deny it. Scripture does not support it although Mr Warren advocates it. I noted from information freely available that you are a Warren disciple, hence my remark. the danger in the "Seeker Sensitive" model of preaching is that there is a mixture of some truth mixed in with serious error. This can be deadly in its impact on individuals and church fellowships.

Jon Filomeno

commented on Jun 14, 2017

Hi Sir John Miller, i like this comment of yours, "seeker sensitive" model of preaching is a mixture of some truth mixed in with serious error. sometime there are churches or pastors who loves entertainment and end up only entertaining the congregation with their styles of preaching rather than pointing Jesus as the center of their message.

Dean Johnson

commented on Nov 9, 2011

Brandon, thanks for your article. I'm feeling free to utilize what I find helpful, and to dismiss what I choose not to use, without disparaging you, your mentor, or other pastors who find results preaching God's Word in ways different than I.

R.l. Wilson

commented on Nov 10, 2011

Whoa! I wanted to positively comment on this article but after reading some of the below comments I think I'll just leave this alone. I think sometimes as preachers we spend too much time attacking each other than doing what we were called to do. If driving a tank is your way of gaining attention than go with it! This article is just giving you different ways of delivering your message. Just do what the old folks used to say back in the day, just take it all in and spit the bones out! No, I don't always agree with every jot and tittle of every article on Sermon Central but I thank God for this forum. I know the Word well enough when I hear the truth or not....

R.l. Wilson

commented on Nov 10, 2011

Whoa! I wanted to positively comment on this article but after reading some of the below comments I think I'll just leave this alone. I think sometimes as preachers we spend too much time attacking each other than doing what we were called to do. If driving a tank is your way of gaining attention than go with it! This article is just giving you different ways of delivering your message. Just do what the old folks used to say back in the day, just take it all in and spit the bones out! No, I don't always agree with every jot and tittle of every article on Sermon Central but I thank God for this forum. I know the Word well enough when I hear the truth or not....

Glen Maidment

commented on May 29, 2012

great thought's

Jon Filomeno

commented on Jun 14, 2017

this article is quite good , however if we really catch the heart of the congregation and audience let the holy spirit capture their heart. the scripture text is enough to gain their attention and start with it. remember we do not go to church only to be blessed by anyone but we go to church to meet God and give praises to him and be bless only by Him.

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