Writing the Introduction of the Sermon

Every good sermon demands a well-written and well-executed introduction. An introduction basically serves as the ‘face’ of the sermon; it is the first thing the listeners see in a message, it gives the message its appeal and serves as the first door to perceive the holy things of God. Hence, an introduction, despite being short in length, should be thought of carefully.

Before we discuss how to write a good introduction, let us first talk about some certain characteristics of a good introduction.

Firstly, a good introduction captures the attention of the listeners. An introduction is never a good introduction if it fails to do so. A discerning preacher knows quite well that his listeners have many burdens and difficulties in life, and they come every Sunday service to listen to God thru his preaching, for a relief, an enlightenment, or strength. Thus, an introduction must pass through all those burdens, worries, and thoughts and be powerful enough to engage the listeners to be ready to grasp God’s message. It must be relevant, timeless, understandable, and most of all, interesting for everyone to hear.

Secondly, a good introduction serves as the bridge to bring the listeners to the message. An introduction does not only captures the attention of the listeners but also transports them into the world of the Biblical Text that will be used in the sermon. An introduction therefore must always be in sync with the message of the sermon. No matter how catchy or interesting an introduction is, if it is not relevant to the sermon, then it falls short of its function. An introduction gives the general idea of what the message will be all about, without giving its summary. To achieve this, it must relate to the everyday life of the listeners while at the same time brings them to the world of the Biblical text, or vice versa.

Thirdly, an introduction should not be long. It is always tempting for the preacher to put many important ideas all at once in the introduction, but we must refrain to do so, for the introduction is only an introduction, and not an abstract nor the outline nor the summary of the whole message. At most, the introduction should be only around three minutes in length when delivered.

Now that we know the basic characteristics of a good introduction, we are now ready to discuss the steps in writing it. Let us begin first about the prerequisites in writing the introduction.

The prerequisite steps in writing the introduction is firstly, to make sure you know in mind and heart the message that you are going to preach. If you do not know exactly the main thrust of your message, you will be having a hard time constructing the introduction. Secondly, is to make sure you know who your listeners are. You must know your listeners so you could write something that relates to them.

Now, the steps in writing a good introduction are as follows.

Firstly, determine what would be the form of your introduction. The form could be a question, a saying or a popular proverb in the context or culture of the listeners, an alarming statistics, a Bible verse, or just a strong declaration or statement. The most appropriate form depends on the nature of the message you are trying to deliver, and what would be the most effective way to make it relevant to the listeners.

Secondly, write down your first three to five sentences. After determining the appropriate form, begin to write the first sentences and read those sentences over and over again, for at least ten times. In fact the introduction could be as short as three to five sentences, or just a little more. At most it must be only around ten sentences, going beyond that is too much. As you read it, picture in mind your listeners, every single one of them, as much as possible. Try asking these questions: 1. Will all of my listeners likely understand these sentences? 2. Are they likely to be confused, or have multiple interpretations? Confusion or multiple interpretations should be avoided. 3. Are they likely to get offended, or bored? Of course the Word of God is likely to offend the guilty heart, but at this time a Bible Verse may not yet have been spoken, so the introduction should at most catch the interest of the erring saints, and not yet to offend them.

Thirdly, watch out for grammar and some technicalities. A good introduction though personal in message must not speak as if meant to a single person. So pronouns like ‘we’ and the plural ‘you’ must be preferred over ‘I’ and the singular ‘you’. Moreover, an introduction must only be around three minutes when actually spoken. It will be helpful then to actually read aloud the introduction and test its spoken length yourself.

Lastly, but most importantly, does the introduction actually serves its purpose of introducing the sermon? No matter how well written your introduction is, if it fails in this part, then it is not an introduction at all.

A good introduction catches the attention of the hearers, relevant and understandable, short but has a message of its own, and most importantly, introduces the sermon to the listeners.

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There is a time for everything

There is a time for everything. Right now, you are maybe busy about a task, that you need to accomplish a little later. Or maybe you have just finished something, and you are beginning something new. Whatever it is that you are doing, there is something that you would like to finish and something that is yet to be done.

The same holds true to your life. No matter how old you are now, even if you realize it or not, you are in a middle of something; you are in a road or in a journey, and in that journey you are accomplishing something and there are some things else that you need to do afterwards. If you like to see it this way, life is a big journey consisting of many several journeys that are composed of interwoven and overlapping tasks – that is basically what life is.

These tasks, no matter how big or small, have the power to influence the progress your life is taking. Important undone tasks will surely result to some loops, cycles, and setbacks, hindering progress, while finishing tasks at their most appropriate times will certainly result to a progressive life. So two things become inevitably important: making sure of what is the most important task for the moment, and making sure you do it efficiently as soon as possible. If you can secure these two everyday, your life will surely be without a doubt be productive and successful.

So may I ask you, dear reader, what is your current task? And after doing that, what is your next one to accomplish? Would you mind if I tell you that some small tasks, no matter how small they seem, could give you a big progress not only in this life but also in the next life to come?

That seemingly small task that is actually quite big revolves around the wonderful man called Jesus of Nazareth. About two thousand years ago, He literally walked on the Earth to try to show us the true purpose of life, and that is a life that embraces God and His Son the Christ. The reliability and authenticity of His message could never be doubted or put to dust, for millions of people in all of human history had experienced a new dynamic level of fulfillment, joy, contentment, and power the moment they embraced this wonderful man called Jesus of Nazareth. This man called Jesus, whose historicity had been proven even by His most fierce skeptics, has gained the faith and trust of innumerable people.

And no wonder, for this Jesus was not only man but also God. Only a true living God could exert such a lasting, timeless, and omnipotent influence among its believers, beyond any measure of illusion and doubt. To embrace Him is truly to make a certain progress in this life, that will grant the lover of God the opportunity and power to forsake all that is negative in his/her life, and only experience those that are positive and new. Moreover, the lover of God has been granted the most fulfilling achievement of all – and that is joy in the next life to come.

There is a time for everything. A time to dream and a time to work; a time to rest and a time to eat; a time to think and a time to act; and a time to lay down and a time to rise up; a time to be less and a time to be more; a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to reminisce and a time to aspire; and a time to ponder the most beneficial decision that you can have now.

Now is the time to take seriously the present condition of your life, and see the real status of the progress of your life. Are you really progressing or only got stuck in a never-ending loop or cycle? My own life is a testimony that nothing really great happens until I act to embrace Jesus. Only Jesus could move your life forward. Try to embrace Him today and see the eternal benefits of this seemingly small task.

God taught me again

I was the guest speaker at Bukang Liwayway for its Baccalaureate Service. I used Deuteronomy 8 with the title, Remembering God with Thankfulness.

I preached with an almost unprepared heart. I mostly relied upon the prayers of others. Blessedly, God helped me and I was so glad that the night before I once again cried in prayer and there was a genuine change in heart.

The church is a large one, with a good number of youth and children. They have more than twenty leaders. The church is spacious too with a large room for visitors. They also sponsor many children and youth for their academic scholarship.

The moment I arrived there, it dawned on me that I have to tone down the message. I also wished I chose a different Text. Yet, by His Grace, the message made its full impact upon the parents – and partially upon the graduates.

I was also humbled down by the fact that they call Ptr Paolo as Kuya and not pastor. I was a bit ashamed of myself.

God taught me to be sensitive – to feel and discern the surroundings. He also taught me adaptability – the wisdom and courage to adjust instantly according to needs.

Thank You Lord for these learnings.

Content or Delivery: Which is more Important in Preaching?

The divine task of preaching will always involve the elements of content and delivery. Content is simply the message of the sermon, and delivery is the means wherein the message is seen and heard by the listeners. Complementing each other, these two go side by side and could never be separated from each other. Of these two, which is more important?

An efficient sermon will always have something to say, as Haddon Robinson calls it, ‘a big idea.’ A sermon that has several little ideas without one big idea will be a confusing one, and nothing would likely remain in the minds of the listeners. An ideal sermon will always have a central idea, or a big idea, supported by several little ideas. Without a big idea, there is no real message, it could hardly be called a sermon, and preaching becomes futile or mute. Thus, a clear message is a principal element in the holy task of preaching; the content is indispensable in preaching.

The same could be said for the delivery of the message. A good content will come almost void to the hearers if the delivery is lifeless. The delivery plays an important role in capturing the interest of the listeners, emphasizing ideas, and ultimately in affecting positive influence in the lives of the listeners.

It is not easy to put some clear distinctions; are we talking about the technical or mechanical aspects of preaching, or the spiritual aspects as well? Frankly, both the mechanical and the spiritual. Both the preparation of a good content and the efficient delivery of the sermon involves both the mechanical and spiritual.

To think and use your pen and paper are mechanical, yet the means and the grace to do it is spiritual, so the making of a good content covers both the mechanical and the spiritual. To say that it is purely mechanical reflects a boastful heart, one that is inclined not to acknowledge the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit to write a good sermon. Proper interpretation of the Biblical text, by the way, demands the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is spiritual. The methodologies of hermeneutics (i.e., the science and art of interpreting the Bible) provide help in interpreting the Holy Scriptures, yet the Holy Spirit illumines it in a deeper way in our minds and hearts.

The same goes with the delivery of the sermon. Great oratory skills will fall short if devoid of God’s power thru the work of His Spirit. Is good delivery to be measured alone by the good utilization of voice, gestures, body movements, eye contact and facial expressions? Truly they serve their purpose and could for some measure touch the intellect and the emotions, but a good delivery has the power to influence the mind and heart that can only be achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. How could this be assessed? Not just by the tears and different emotions seen from the listeners, but more so, by the inward change of the hearts, which is of course only possible to assess outside the church building, in real life. A powerful delivery of the sermon will and always will include the unction or the anointing of the Holy Spirit; mere oratory skills will never achieve the glory preaching deserves, for preaching is more than just public speaking.

1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Now before we answer the question which is more important between content and delivery, let us make first some clarifications.

The first clarification is that we do not try here to belittle any of the two, or to promote any of them at the expense of the other, or to put one against the other. Rather, what we are trying to do here is to encourage preachers to do their best in improving both their content and delivery in preaching. Today’s world is much more broken and darker than before, and preaching will always be one of God’s tools to bring lost souls to His Kingdom and to strengthen His Church.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 16:25
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began

The second clarification is that in the writing of the content and in the act of delivery, we are not only talking about the physical, mental, and mechanical actions in these two endeavors. Rather, the spiritual aspects (i.e., the help of the Holy Spirit in illuminating His Word and the anointing during the delivery of the preaching that gives its power) are also considered. Explanation about the certain distinctions and the blending of the mechanical and spiritual aspects has been given earlier.

Now let us draw the conclusion and the answer to our question. At first thought I am inclined to say that content is more important for two reasons. First, because what value is there in delivery if the content is wrong? And second, content is more important because I know of some preachers whose delivery is flat and monotonous (strictly in the technical sense, not spiritually) like Jonathan Edwards’, yet the preaching is so powerful because of its great content. Yet, I know, that Edwards’ preaching though flat in delivery is helped by the Holy Spirit to make it powerful. So these two reasons have in some value tend to bring more weight towards content than delivery.

Yet still I will say that these two, content and delivery, are equally important in both the mechanical and spiritual aspects of preaching. These two complement each other: great content demands and creates powerful delivery, and efficient delivery illumines the content to its utmost clarity, truthfulness, accuracy, and applicability in everyday life. These two both uphold the preacher during the task of preaching, partnered with the unction of the Holy Spirit. These two should be fully understood and acknowledged by every preacher, and every effort should be utilized to improve in both areas. Hence, let us do our best to write an accurate and relevant sermon, and deliver it with our everything and make room for the Holy Spirit to do His supernatural work of affecting positive change in the lives of the hearers.

Prayer Fellowship at Home

It’s been a long time since we had our last Overnight Prayer Meeting at home. Though tonight’s Prayer Meeting was much shorter, and not an overnight, God moved my family to tears – Mylene and Ate Leah. Mylene said she found her second family in us, and my sister received her second life from God.

Also, Ptr Paolo Figueroa, our new friend in the ministry and her girlfriend were with us.

My father, mother, sister and Mylene gave their heartfelt testimonies.

It was a small Fellowship and we enjoyed each other’s presence.

It was presided by Ptr Ian. He also gave the message from Acts 20:17-38 with three pointers for us, Christians:

1) Reliance on the Holy Spirit
2) The need to work for sustaining the ministry
3) The loving relationship with the brethren that includes correction

God Works at OMNHS

Last Monday, we anointed the classroom where we conduct our Bible Study with prayer and oil, as commanded by the Lord thru Ann Jelica, an officer of the BKD, the Campus Ministry in OMNHS.

Praise God, the day after, the class was more peaceful and God’s presence was there all around. Praise God for His works. We know that no matter how hard the circumstances are, God is working with us in the Campus Ministry.

Ate Merlyn’s Birthday

We celebrated Ate Merlyn’s 40th Birthday at the Provincial Hospital. I was quite glad to notice the fellowship that these brothers and sisters are enjoying. They are TB patients, yet they are happy people seeking God.

Each one present gave his message, and Ate Merlyn cried in tears. Then we prayed for her.

We talked about Philippians 4:4-9.

How to be Happy in God.

Philippians 4:4-9

1) Be happy and free in Christ, not caged by outward circumstances (4)
2) ‎Wait eagerly for the Lord (5)
3) ‎Ask in prayer with thanksgiving (6)
4) ‎Meditate on holy things (8)
5) ‎Practice what you were thought (9)