Introductions Are More Important Than You Think

In the next series of posts we are going to look at how you go about developing a sermon. I will assume that you have done the basic work referred to earlier in this blog, things like defining the main point of a passage, what your goal is in preaching, and doing the study on the passage that gives you a picture of what God is saying. I’m assuming, too, that you have figured out the main point of the passage you are working with, as well as how that passage relates to the life of your people. In this post we want to look at the reality that introductions are more important than you think in your preparation.

The next sermon that I preach is on Seeking God’s Will. It struck me, as I was preparing for this message, that introductions are more important than you think as you prepare to preach. Studies show that you have about 7 to 30 seconds to grab an audience’s attention. How will that happen? There are several good ways to do that, and we’ll explore those in the next few blogs. Today I want to focus on story. One of the best ways to “hook” people in is to tell an interesting story. For instance, in regard to Seeking God’s Will, I’m going to say this in the introduction:

Attempt #1 to find God’s Will

Picture of Sophia Christina Hopkey, first love of John Wesley.
Sophia Hopkey

The story is told of John Wesley when he was seeking to find God’s will regarding marriage. Wesley was the founder of the Holy Clubs during his time at university. Part of their covenant was that they would adhere to the apostle Paul’s admonition to remain single. (I Corinthians 7:8, 9)

However, at the age of 32, while he was a missionary in Georgia (US), he met Sophia Christina Hopkey. He was so taken with her, that he began to rethink his previous commitment to singleness. He decided to test God’s will. With a friend, Charles Delamotte, he went through the process of drawing the lot. On three pieces of paper they wrote: Marry, think of it not this year, and think of it no more. Then the lots went into a container, and Wesley drew out the lot and read, “think of it no more.” Wesley was heartbroken, but decided that this was the will of God, and ended the courtship, and soon after, returned to England.

Attempt #2 to find God’s will

Jackson, John; Grace Murray (?) in Old Age; John Wesley’s House & The Museum of Methodism;

Shortly after his return to England, Wesley began the itinerant ministry that made him famous. In his travels, he met a woman named Grace Murray, and was strongly attracted to her. He wondered if it could be God’s will that he marry Grace. This time his approach was different. He made a list of all the characteristics that he wanted in a wife, and all the roles that she would play in his life. His conclusion was this, as recorded in his journal: “Therefore, all my seven arguments against marriage are totally set aside. Nay, some of them seem to prove that I ought to marry and that G.M. is the person.”

Picture of John and Charles Wesley.
John and Charles

Unfortunately, John’s brother Charles, with whom he shared ministry, strongly disagreed with his brother’s decision. When he heard about his their engagement, he got on his horse, and galloped over to Grace’s home. There he jumped off his horse, ran inside and said to Grace, “Grace Murray, you have broken my heart.” And then he fainted at her feet. This event so traumatized Grace that she hastily married another man. Strike 2 for John.

Attempt #3 to find God’s Will

Picture of Mary Vazeille, the wife of John Wesley

Finally, a year and a half later, at the age of 47, John did marry. Her name was Mary Vazeille. She was a widow. This time John simply decided that he should marry, and went ahead and did it.

Unfortunately, John had a very unhappy marriage. Twenty-seven years later his wife left him.

So Wesley tried to determine God’s will in 3 different ways. Which way was the right way? As I preach on this passage, I want to develop a pattern for people to use. But my purpose in this post is simply to point out how a good introduction brings people into sermon. Introductions are more important than you think in preparing your message.

In the next post we’ll look at the subject of introductions being the gateway into your message. Below is a short video that will help you see this from a different point of view. Toastmasters is an organization that helps people learn how to make effective speeches. This video gives some instruction on the reality that introductions are more important than you think when speaking to a group.

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