It is 12:30 a.m. and I am waiting to leave for the Portland Airport to pick up my younger son Trevor, whose flight is already an hour late and is now scheduled to come in about 1:30. But in the lateness of the hour, I am reminded of sermon introductions. (“Sure…yeah….right…,” you say)
Robert Shannon says that the sermon introduction must turn involuntary attention into voluntary attention. There may be many things on people’s minds as we begin the sermon and they will decide very quickly whether or not to listen to us. And so our introduction must not only serve the purpose of moving all of the congregation into the main point of the message, but it must also arrest attention.
Now, the airline tie-in…
Why do most of us not listen to the safety announcements that airline stewardesses give at the beginning of flights? Our lives may depend on what she/he says. And yet, if you are like most…the only people who listen to those safety announcements are the 3-4 people on the flight for whom this is their first time to fly.
The reason is…because we have heard it all before. You know what she is going to say. Frequent flies could almost quote the words of the flight attendant along with her. The drone goes on…the partial seat belt held high showing how to click and unclick it. (Only people who have never ridden in a car made after 1965 don’t know how a seat belt functions). The safety card in the seat back pocket…the mock oxygen mask with tubing. (Like if that thing drops, I’m not going to grab that puppy and start sucking air for all I’m worth). We know what the stewardess is going to say, and so we “can ignore it.”
That may (or may not) be OK on your 10th flight this year, but is that really how you want your congregation to respond to the beginning of your sermon? (“We’ve heard it all before…”) Instead, it needs to arrest attention. it needs to (in Shannon’s words) “turn involuntary attention into voluntary attention.”
What have you found is one of the best ways to do that?
FYIW: Trev got in fine. An hour late, but it’s amazing how empty Portland freeways are at 2 a.m.