Warning: Over Hyped Intros

Hype2The first moments of a message make a massive difference. Just jumping into the message without any real introduction is a wasted opportunity. But there is the other extreme to beware of too: the overly hyped intro.

Yesterday I sat down to watch a DVD set that I thought might work for the small groups in our church. They won’t work.  The speaker, who I have enjoyed in the past, turned the introduction to a short series of messages into an infomercial of hype. The first ten minutes of the first message, and then the first five minutes of the second, were taken up with what felt like sales hype.

“I was speaking at a conference, but my message wasn’t working, so I turned to such and such a passage, and I didn’t know what I was going to say next, and then out came this message that I am going to share with you…” Which was followed by a bigger conference, tens of thousands, repeat of the message, lives transformed forever, etc., etc.

Maybe I am just too cynical. I know many Christians would love that and talk in eager tones about how amazing that experience was and how faithful God was, etc. But for me, this kind of “God gave me this miraculous and direct” type of introduction left an empty feeling. I also wonder how it would sound to someone on the fringes of the church.

An introduction to a message is not the place to tell your audience the global impact this one message (via this one messenger) is going to have, or even has had. By pointing listeners to other, bigger, international, church leader audiences, there is a sense in which the introduction is crossing some line we shouldn’t cross. Are these listeners now obligated to speak in exaggerated terms about the message? If the message is so powerful, wouldn’t that power hit home even without the opening sales pitch?

Don’t get me wrong, the opposite extreme can be really unhelpful. That is, “turn with me to this passage…” and no attempt at forging a connection.

The introduction is the time to connect with your listeners, to connect them with their need for the message, and connect them with the passage with an engaged sense of anticipation.

But when the intro becomes sales hype, these connections become tenuous at best. They could feel disconnected from you, the speaker, because you are such an out-of-their-league big shot. They could feel disconnected from the message because God gave it somewhere else for other folks. They could feel disconnected from the passage, because the implication of your introduction is that direct revelation is what makes this message special. And they could feel a general distance from the whole scenario if they suspect any stretching of the truth in what you say.

Even if the hype is true, just introduce the message in a way that is relevant for this group of people and let God’s Word and God’s Spirit do his work. Introduce effectively, but hype and sales pitches aren’t necessary.

5 thoughts on “Warning: Over Hyped Intros

  1. Peter, I couldn’t agree more. I cannot help but feel that some preachers can’t wait to tell their audience that “last week I was in Siberia”, “I just got back from a trip to Poland last night”, “Yesterday when I met with the Pope”, “Just last wednesday I met Justin Bieber on the plane; he’s actually quite a nice guy”, and so on and so forth. It could be appropriate if it illustrates or illuminates a pinciple or application that is being communicated. It usually is not. It’s only meeting a personal need to create a sense of importance and awe or creating a facade behind which a ton of insecurities are stored. Or just showing off.
    I know one speaker who keeps his boarding passes in a scrapbook. He can’t wait to tell his audience how many countries he has been to, on how many planes he’s been and how many different beds he has slept in. I advised him to take up philately but he didn’t think it good idea.
    Anyway, I think it’s annoying.
    I find it hard to come up with a good balanced and appropiate introduction that helps establish a level of rapport necessary to see hearts and minds being receptive.
    The wrapping up I find even harder. In between the intro and outro I do relatively okay. The wrapping up is another story. There is the danger of dragging this on forever. I guess it’s a matter of weighing what should be left for the audience to take home and feel slightly provoked about, to chew on and/or apply in whatever appropriated fashion.



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