Closing The Sermon With Power
Chapter 3: The Ingredients
When you bake a cake, you have to have the right ingredients. Well, when you are putting together a sermon close, you need the right ingredients as well.
Now, what can we use when we put together a sermon close? What is the material that we can use in constructing these celebrative moves at the end of our sermon? What is celebrative material?
Well, celebrative material is material that can help you and your people to emotionally experience the truth of the message. What are some of these raw materials that we can combine and mix to create a powerful close?
That is what this chapter is about. I am going to give you a number of resources, in no particular order, that you should intentionally examine and explore when putting together your sermon closes.
When you are putting together your sermon especially your sermon close, attemp to find hymns that are related to your points. Grab a hymnal and look up your text in the textual reference.
In addition, look up any themes in the topical listing. Hymns are especially powerful because they have been sung for so long that many people know them.
You have found some hymns, now look for poems. Poems are not used as often in sermons today, but if you find an appropriate one, it can be very powerful.
More songs can be helpful. Find gospel songs you can quote. They may be current gospel songs or songs from the past. Some songs really hit us on a deep level when they are relevant to the message.
Often all one has to do is say a few words of a Gospel song or a hymn and they will touch people very deeply. It’s important to recognize that music is a powerful medium. And when the preacher refers to some song, then that song still does its work even though you may not necessarily sing it. You may say it, you may recite it, and you may just refer to it. If it fits in with the truth of your message, it will drive home your point in ways that nothing else will.
Another thing to use in your sermonic celebrations are appeals to the scriptures. When I say scriptures here, I mean some of the old scriptures that are deep in the tradition of the church as well as your community.
Please note that I’m talking about using these scriptures as celebrative materials reaching into the emotive, not necessarily the intellectual dimensions of humanity. Sometimes you have to deal with these scriptures in your exegesis and that is fine, but here I am talking about using it to close the sermon. An old well worn and well used scripture can serve the same function as a song in that they touch deeply into the human being..
A well known story can also drive home a point. These stories may be novels, they may be television programs, they may be movies, they may be stories from your own life. They may even be stories from the mythology of various cultures.
Any story that can drive home your point can be used.
I repeat, it’s important, however, to recognize that at this point, we are looking for material that addresses the emotive. Keep in mind that we are not talking about “teaching” but “celebrating.” You have already taught, you don’t want to teach something else in the sermon close. No it is now time to celebrate what has already been taught.
Another approach for using stories that can be effective is to complete a story that you began earlier in the sermon. If you introduce a story earlier in the sermon, when you get to the close, the people already know part of the story. Finishing the story in the celebration, if it is related to your sermon, can be very effective in helping people emotionally experience the truth of the message.
You can also use spirituals just like you can use hymns. There’s something about
spirituals and I think that we don’t use spirituals as much as we ought to, especially those of us who are younger preachers. We often don’t go back to the spirituals enough.
It’s important to recognize that spirituals reach us on a very deep level. There is something “African” going on when you talk about the spirituals. There is something in this interaction between Africa and America. Something deep is going on in the spirituals.
In the spirituals, the hope of freedom clashes up against the reality of slavery. Yes, there is something powerful going on in the spirituals. And this tension is something that is deep within that we, as preachers, don’t use enough.
Not only as preachers, but on a side note, our worship leaders oftentimes will go running to the latest praise anthem or to the latest praise theme when there is something very powerful, something very innate in the spirituals. And I think
that we need to reclaim them.
We preacher, especially African-American preachers, have a responsibility to reclaim the spirituals and to use them as raw materials, especially in the celebration.
Snow, the rainbow at the end of rain, the blade of grass that comes
fighting up through the ground. We can use many of these things in nature to help us.
Another raw material is the cliché. You remember the clichés from the black church like “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” That is an example.
There are certain clichés from the African-American Church tradition like, “He may not come when you want Him but He’s right on time.”
Thse cliche’s can be used to help you put together an efective sermon close.
So what do you do? Take your points that you have created after exegesis. Now go through them one by one attempting to find hymns, spirituals, stories, cliches’, gospel songs, etc. that will help you to celebrate that point.
QUESTIONS From Readers
Can you give a list of important spirituals?
As far as the list of the old, popular spirituals, you can look at the internet. Go to Google and type in “spirituals.” But let me also say that All African- American preachers need at least two hymnals.
One is the Hymnal from your denominational tradition, whatever it is. You need that to do some basic worship planning and hymn choice.
Secondly, you need the African-American Hymnal. It has in it Gospel songs; it has in it spirituals; and it has in it a scriptural index. So you’ve got a particular scripture that you are dealing with, you read it, you look it up, and then you go to that hymnal, and then you can see spirituals that relate to it and other Gospel songs that relate to it from the African-American tradition.
In addition, you can go to Google, type in Negro Spirituals. I believe there is a website called NegroSpirituals.com. I would definitely encourage you to go
there and you’ll find much of the same information there.
Can’t you use these raw materials throughout the sermon and not just the end of the sermon?
That is definitely true. These resources, all of these raw materials can be used in the sermon to illustrate your points. It’s important, however, in the celebration, that the celebration materials you choose to use become more prominent. They take a bigger seat. They are there to
celebrate the truth of the message.
So in the sermon, we are using these components to illustrate the sermon, you use these stories, you use these spirituals, (etc.) and you are illustrating
the points of the sermon.
However, when you get to the celebration, you are doing more than illustrating; you are celebrating. In the sermon close, you are no longer illustrating.
You have already illustrated all you are going to illustrate. You have already described all you are going to describe. You have already dealt with the intellect in such a way that, now, we just need to celebrate the truth you presented. And sometimes, the best way to celebrate this truth is by hitting that spiritual, hitting that hymn, you know, hitting these songs.
Then there is an emotional release that happens here because you are not
illustrating the point, you are not illustrating the sermon, you are celebrating the truth of the sermon.
So I think that it is important, as we said before, that these things ingredients be used all the time and they should be used in your illustrations. But when it gets to the celebration, we are simply about celebrating the truth.
Can the spirituals help to connect with an older
Yes. In fact, it would be nice to reclaim these spirituals so that it can connect with everybody. But at any rate, if you are having problems (just on a side note) interacting with the older generation, when you hit your celebration, use some spirituals up in there, use some hymns up in there, use some scriptures that were meaningful to older people up in there.
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