Try This Kind of Conclusion

Try This Kind of Conclusion

In this post I’m going to continue reflecting on conclusions, a subject we started a couple of posts ago.  I’m going to give you some examples and encourage you to try this kind of conclusion in each case.

End with a story that summarizes your main point

Picture of Peter Marshall, Senate Chaplain

Peter Marshall

Another extremely effective way to conclude your message is to tell a story at the end that makes your main point.  Peter Marshall, long-time pastor in the US, and for many years the chaplain of our Senate, was especially effective at this.  He once preached on James 4:14: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”   He talked about knowing for certain that we are going to heaven.  He concluded with an old legend about a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to the market.  When the servant returned, he was obviously shaken.  Something powerful had happened in the marketplace.

Down in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She made a threatening gesture toward me.  Master, please lend me your horse so that I can hasten away to avoid her.  I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.” 

The merchant lent the horse, and the servant left.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace himself, and he saw death there.  He went over and asked, “Why did you frighten my servant this morning?  Why did you make a threatening gesture?”

Death replied, “That was not a threatening gesture.  It was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I have an appointment with him this evening in Samarra.”

Marshall went on to say that we each have an appointment with death, but that is not something to fear if we’ve put our trust in Jesus Christ, the one who alone holds the keys of death and hell.

Picture this: he had everyone’s attention, and everyone knew the big idea of his message.  Think about this kind of ending and try this kind of conclusion for your sermon.

In a later post I’ll talk about where to find these kinds of stories.

Try this kind of conclusion — giving people an action

Picture of candles illustrating Jesus, the light of the world

The Light of the World

Another great style of conclusion is to give people an action to do that will allow them to physically connect to the message you have given.  I’m indebted to a blog by Rachel Blom on the subject of conclusions for this illustration.  In a Christmas service she preached about Jesus’ birth bringing light into a dark world.  She invited everyone who believed in Christ is the light of the world to come down at the end of the message and light a candle.  Appropriate music provided background as people came forward to confirm their beliefs.

Obviously, this same action could encourage people to commit to becoming the light of the world.

I had the privilege, in the last church I served, to work with a creative team that specialized in coming up with these kinds of post-sermon activities.  Here are just a few of the things we did that emphasized the message in a meaningful conclusion:

Writing down their sins, and then putting the paper through a shredder on the way out.

Coming forward in a commitment to Christ, or to live out the challenge of the message.

Praying together in small groups.

Picking up a stone, writing a word on it that reminded us of the message, and then keeping it as a reminder.

Writing on a piece of broken mirror the word (or name) of what God wants us to see when we look in the mirror.

Writing the names of people for whom the people will commit to pray.

We’ll continue this subject in the next post.

In the meantime, try this kind of conclusion for your preaching, and people will remember it.



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