Orient Before Any Journey

It’s important to know where you are going before you try to go there.  This is true in travel and it is true in preaching.  Some people mistakenly think that since “deductive” or “punch-line first” approaches to preaching can lack interest, tension and motivation to listen, the alternative is to travel vaguely toward an unknown goal.  Wrong.  It is important to orient the listener to where the message is going, whether or not the punch-line or main idea is given up front.

This is true for the message as a whole. If you decide that an inductive strategy would work best for the message, then plan the orientation phase well.  People don’t like to be led through a forest blind-folded, but this is how some poor inductive sermons feel from the listener’s perspective.  Look for ways to introduce the relevance of the message in the introduction.  Typically an inductive message should have the subject element of the main idea introduced early on, leaving the complement to complete the idea for later in the message.

This is true for smaller phases of the message. For example, don’t launch into background information without giving some orientation to why it is relevant to the message.  As the speaker, you know how relevant the information is to what will follow.  The listeners don’t.  Explain why the background is helpful, then give the background.  Don’t make people wait for the point of what they are already hearing.

There may be some exceptions to this.  However, as a general rule, make sure you orient your listeners so they are motivated to listen to the background information you give, or to the message as a whole.  Highlight relevance early to motivate concentration.  This is not all it takes to keep people with you, but without this, they will drift.

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