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What happens if you bomb the sermon introduction? Lean in. Are you ready for this? Nothing, absolutely nothing, good happens if you bomb the sermon introduction. Nothing communicates I don’t care much for what I’m about to say so you can just take a nap like bombing on the first couple minutes of your sermon. And yes, I do mean to be dramatic about this.

If you haven’t grasped this yet, your sermon introduction is vitally important. But what does it look like to knock the introduction out of the park? What are some things to avoid? What are some things to ensure are a part of it? Let’s dive into the 10 commandments of an effective sermon introduction!

The 10 Commandments of an Effective Sermon Introduction

  1. You shall always know where your message is headed before you prepare the sermon introduction. There are few things worse than an introduction that isn’t related to the rest of the sermon.
  2. You shall intentionally attempt to connect with everyone in the room. Visitors shouldn’t feel lost or confused. Avoid Christianeze.
  3. You shall not introduce your introduction. Telling the congregation what you’re going to tell them is redundant and uninteresting. Let it flow like a story.
  4. You shall make it long enough that people lean in. Don’t cut the introduction too short. You may not get everyone on the bus for the journey.
  5. You shall make it short enough that people see the text as the main event. The introduction shouldn’t be the focal point of the sermon. The truth of the text and how it speaks to the introduction and informs and impacts life going forward must be the focal point.
  6. You shall start with a story. Personal ones are best, true ones are great, funny ones are good, made up ones are meh.
  7. You shall start with a question. Questions cause us to not be able to think about anything other than the question. It’s called instinctive elaboration and it’s a real thing.
  8. You shall not start with an announcement. Let some other communication channel do this or make it an action step if it’s a major one.
  9. You shall bring in the problem (our sin, world’s brokenness, etc). Combining a story with a further elaboration on a problem causes people to lean into the solution: God’s word and His gospel.
  10. You shall not be monotone and low energy. By all means, be yourself. But be the energetic version of yourself. Don’t be afraid to be a bit animated. Be passionate about the fact that you get to share the gospel with the congregation and its visitors.

Want to see an effective sermon introduction? Watch the first 5 minutes of this message. Did you find yourself wanting to know the question he refers to?

Want to improve your preaching exponentially? Get your copy of Preaching Sticky Sermons and begin preaching memorable sermons every week!

What do you believe is important to include and avoid in a sermon introduction?

Brandon Kelley serves at a fast-growing church plant in Batavia, Ohio (east side of Cincinnati) called The Crossing in the role of Outreach & Communications Pastor. He loves to learn and write about preaching and leadership. Connect with him on Twitter.

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Gregory Bork

commented on Aug 24, 2017

Andy Stanley's sermon that was suggested as a good example of your 10 commandments for good introductions violated several of the commandments! Not a good example. Even worse, a bad sermon. The only hero who saves is Jesus. He missed it completely, and preaches a message of works to meet God's status. He even says people of all walks, not just Christians, can be heroes to God. Did he not hear: "Without faith, it is impossible to please God"? (Hebrews 11:6). He refers to his father, Dr. Stanley. Now there's a preacher who preaches the Gospel. Andy should learn from him. Andy is engaging as a speaker, but his message is off point.

Jeff Strite

commented on Aug 24, 2017

I repeatedly break commandment #!. I may know where the sermon is kind of headed, but I rarely know how it's going to turn out until I'm finished. I've read the text, I've considered the general direction of where it's headed and then I find an illustration. In keeping with the focus of commandment #1, the opening illustration sets the tone for where the sermon is going. I also break #6. Openings for me can be songs, poems, videos, or other items I think might catch the audience's attention. I try not to be too predictable.

Bryan Eason

commented on Sep 23, 2017

I think Robert Morris is a good communicator, but he breaks many of these. Most of the time he just opens the text, read and starts talking. He is not real exuberant, but is clear and gets a good point across. He has a church of thousands.

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