Friday, September 26, 2008

Beginnings and endings of messages


Decades ago, I was talking with a well respected, young doctor who went to the church where I was a youth pastor. He shared a thought confirmed in schools that teach preaching but which I often find neglected.
His words? "Bob, never start a message with the words: 'turn in your Bibles to....' and then go on from there."
Our discussion then focused on the beginning and ending of messages.

Over the years, I have heard a gazillion messages begin with the very thing we are instructed to avoid. I presume when I attend church that we will talk about a passage of scripture. The point I want to consider and, have others consider is "why?"
Why are we going to look at a particular point of scripture?
Why should we care about what is going to be said?
Why should I turn to "such and such" passage of Scripture?

In listening to effective speakers, I find that they begin with something that "hooks" the attention of the audience. More than likely, it is a story or a joke or something that will get the listener's attention to want to listen to the rest of the message. If I start without enthusiasm or, without a "hook," it is hard to get the audience back to a point of caring about what the rest of the message will say.


As much as beginnings can leave much to be desired, endings can leave me wondering why we ever began. I find that many speakers don't quite know how they will end so the picture I use is: "they have the plane circling the runway but they don't know how to land."
Consequently, I will listen to a speaker going well past the comfort zone of my mental capacities either saying the same things already said or, simply reaching for something that will make ending possible. I cannot begin to recount the numbers of times a speaker has reached a great ending point but....they keep going on...and on....and on.

I heard a joke years ago about a teenager bringing a friend to church and it was the friend's first time ever in a church service. The pastor began his message by taking his watch off and putting it on the pulpit. When asked what that meant, the church youth said, "not a thing."

Too often it seems that time does not mean a thing to a speaker. However, when a point has been made and all has been said, it is VITAL to know how to end lest the message go on...and on...and on ad infinitum or, better, ad nauseam.

So, I am done now. I think. Hmm...maybe I could talk more about how to end or why to end or............okay....I am done.

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