A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor finally confess something I’d been waiting for a pastor to say my entire life. During the middle of his sermon, he declared, “This sermon is going to have four endings.” I was so happy I wanted to give him the world’s second most awesome side hug. (This was the first most awesome.) Finally, a pastor was admitting the difficulty of ending a sermon.
Some pastors just preach until the clock runs out and then tie the whole thing off unexpectedly with a prayer. With little or no warning, right after they’ve read a Bible verse, they’ll say, “Dear God, we just thank you for this Sunday.” If you’re in the audience taking notes you don’t even know you’re supposed to have your eyes closed. “Are we in a prayer right now? Was that the end?”
To prevent End of Sermon Whiplash or “ESW,” I’ve collected seven signs that will indicate to you that the ride is about to come to an end. Get your Bibles and your coat. Break yourself, fool, it’s time to go to lunch!
1. “In closing…”
This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about seven minutes left.
2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”
When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.
3. “As we’re wrapping up…”
Technically not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.
4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.
Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just rise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?
5. The pastor closes his Bible.
Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.
6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.
I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backward. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.
7. They start talking faster.
I have two talking speeds – fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have two main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.
Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is nowhere near over.
Me, personally? I don’t worry about the length of a sermon. I let the Holy Spirit take all the time necessary, but I’m probably holier than you are.
Question: What does your pastor say at the end of sermons? Did I miss any signs that a sermon is about to end?