Yesterday I offered five examples of how to finish weakly as your sermon finishes weekly. Let’s ponder what makes a conclusion strong:
Elements required in a conclusion – sometimes it is helpful to review the flow of the message, usually it is worth reviewing the main idea and intended applications of the message. The conclusion is a great opportunity to encourage response to and application of the message. The conclusion has to include, at some point, the phenomena known as stopping. Review, encourage, stop.
Elements not required in a conclusion – standard teaching it may be, but worth mentioning nonetheless: generally it is not helpful to introduce new information during the conclusion. A concluding story? Maybe that’s ok. But don’t suddenly throw in a new piece of exegetical insight into the preaching passage, or rush off to another passage for one last bit of sight-seeing.
Finishing the journey – as someone who has flown once or twice, let me continue with the airplane analogy since there are several thoughts that can be shared here. Passengers who have had a great journey with a bad landing will leave with their focus entirely on the bad landing. Passengers want the pilot to know where he is going and to take them straight there. They don’t particularly want the pilot to finish a normal journey with a historic televised adrenaline landing. Passengers like a smooth landing, but they’ll generally take a slight bump over repeated attempts to find the perfect one. Once landed, extended taxi-ing is not appreciated. A good landing that takes you by surprise always seems to have a pleasant effect.
Haddon’s Runway – one approach that I particularly appreciate and find hard to emulate, is Haddon Robinson’s oft-used approach. It is evident after most Haddon sermons that he carefully planned his final sentence. He flies the plane until he gets there and then quite naturally the plane lands on that landing strip of just ten to fifteen words and the journey is over. Smooth, apparently effortless, immensely effective. As he teaches in class, much better to finish two sentences before listeners think you should than two sentences after!
Tomorrow we’ll consider the post-sermon elements of the service, since these also have an effect on the journey.
2 thoughts on “Finishing Strong”
Finishing the sermon. I have not finished a sermon in years on time. Sometimes one sermon on my manuscript takes me three weeks to finish. What is up with that? I really am going to try to apply your points on preaching. Maybe after 45 years I can get this wonderful privilege of preaching/teaching down. Thanks
Thanks for posting this series on Finishing Well, Peter. I’ve found that is my biggest struggle in preaching. I’ve probably run the gamut on poor ways to finish. But I’ve taken great encouragement from this series- especially what you mentioned about scripting out the last couple of sentences. That’s a good idea.
Nearly every time I’ve preached, I’ve done the exact opposite: plan every part of the sermon and then “see what happens” at the end on Sunday morning. That’s a bad idea for a whole host of reasons. One of which I am particularly guilty of: making the conclusion drag on. I think you’re right, that, after a little summary/recap (possibly a brief illustration), maybe all that is needed is a few, well-thought out sentences.