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.