Thankfully most churches do not descend into the superficiality of contemporary TV games shows. Now I would be highly relevant and refer to one, but I don’t watch any, so I’ll have to be slightly generic. Imagine for a moment that your church instituted a new slot in the church service. . .
Each week two preachers take turns to give the opening five minutes of their sermon. Then the audience get to vote for which sermon they get to hear that day. Perhaps the losing introduction gets less travel expenses. Perhaps the church could install a praise-o-meter and the selection could be made via volume of singing in two subsequent songs. Ok, enough of that.
Thankfully most churches don’t descend to such a level. We have a bit more of an appropriate atmosphere and ethos around the worship time and the sermon. Or do we?
Even without the flashing lights of the praise-o-meter, or the host with his “able assistant,” or the hype of a vote, something similar does happen each week. At the end of the introduction, each listener chooses whether they will engage or disengage for the rest of the message. Few, if any, will leave. But many may leave internally, heading for the golf course, or the weekly to-do list, or the forthcoming interview, or whatever. In fact, by the end of the introduction, many leavers will already be long gone. The first moments and minutes of a message are so vital!
Preaching is no game. But let’s not neglect the importance of arresting attention, surfacing a need, engaging the listener, demonstrating earliest possible relevance of speaker, text and message. Don’t depend on their dutiful commitment to listen to the Word. Win them so they can’t help themselves!