Finishing Weak

Finishing a sermon is neither easy nor natural.  There are various approaches taken, and in this post I’d like to offer a few I’ve observed in myself and others.  In the next post I will try to offer some constructive alternatives.

1. The “Searching for a Runway” Conclusion – This is a common one that we fall into when we fail to plan our conclusion before starting to preach.  As the sermon wears on we become aware of the need to land the plane, but have to search for a decent runway on which to land it.  Consequently as we’re coming in to land we remember that we haven’t reinforced a certain element of the message, so we pull out of the descent and circle around for another attempt.  Next time in we think of half a conclusion that might work better and so pull out again, circle around and turn in to another possible landing strip.  Needless to say, passengers don’t find this pursuit of a better runway to be particularly comfortable or helpful.  When the message drags on a couple of minutes or ten longer than it feels like it should, any good done in the sermon tends to be undone rather quickly!

2. The “Just Stop” Conclusion – There are some preachers who don’t seem to be aware of the possibility of a strong finish and so don’t bother to land the plane.  It simply drops out of the sky at a certain point.  Once all has been said, without any particular effort to conclude the message, its suddenly over.  This is a particular danger for those who go on to announce a closing hymn, I find.

3. The “Overly Climactic” Conclusion – At the other extreme are those who know the potential of a good finale and so overly ramp up the climactic crescendo in the closing stages.  After preaching a ho-hum message, they suddenly try to close it off with a fireworks display that will leave everyone stunned and standing open mouthed with barely a “ooo-aaah” on their lips.  Truth is that if the message hasn’t laid the foundation for such an ending, then people will be left stunned and unsure of what to say, “uuuugh?”

4. The “Uncomfortable Fade” Conclusion – Perhaps the domain of new, inexperienced and untrained preachers, this follows the general comfort rule of preaching: if you are not comfortable in your preaching, your listeners won’t be either.  So the message comes to what might be a decent ending, then the speaker, well, sort of, just adds something like, “that’s all I wanted to say, I think, yeah, so….” (like this paragraph, 20 words too long!)

5. The “Discouraging Finale” Conclusion – Another tendency among some is to preach what might be a generally encouraging message, but then undo that encouragement with a final discouraging comment.  People need to be left encouraged to respond to the Word and to apply the Word, but some have a peculiar knack for finishing with a motivational fizzle comment.



One thought on “Finishing Weak

  1. Relating to number 5:

    – when the tone of the conclusion does not match the tone of the text – so
    like the encouraging text that concludes with a discouraging remark,
    but it’s also the same when the text is on the magnificent glory of
    God but the conclusion is man centered or the text is all warning but
    there is no rebuke/warning in the conclusion.
    [Note from Peter – Mike sent another comment that I’ve incorporated into tomorrow’s post . . . it’s worth seeing!]

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