I am going to start a series of posts today on the subject of the sermon appeal. The sermon appeal is a time in the sermon where the preacher asks the congregation to change in light of the sermon presented.
One of my preaching mentors told me once that every sermon, Bible Study, or religious lecture should end in an appeal. Certainly this is from a particular conservative evangelical perspective, but I do think that it is an important part of the sermon even for those who do not come from such traditions.
One of the great attractions of the appeal is that if you end with an appeal it will provide direction to your sermon. If the preacher thinks about the appeal, that preacher will know what she or he is asking the people to do with the message. This helps the preacher solidify and craft the message in a way that she may not have been able to do without focusing on the appeal. If you plan on an appeal, you will at least be directing your sermon in a particular direction. Focusing on a particular direction is very important.
Another great benefit of an appeal is that it provides a tangible way for the people to respond in the service. Certainly the “rubber hits the road” in the daily lives of the people you address as they attempt to live out the implications of the gospel preached, but the first step is to get them to move. People are more likely to live out that which they have publicly accepted. Certainly this is not always the case and there is a hypocritical impulse in all of us, but it is also true that change does happen and sometimes “taking one’s stand” is the first step to a more faithful life. Some can trace a change happening after sitting at the “mourners bench.”
Perhaps one of the strongest reasons for having an appeal is that it is the tradition of your particular congregation and/or denomination. If you have read this site for any period of time you know that I am not against tradition. Tradition is important. We should use tradition to promote the Gospel of the Kingdom. However, we should not allow tradition to stand in the way of our presentation of the Gospel. It is my opinion that in most cases a well placed and faithful appeal goes a long way towards promoting the truth that was presented.
In short, why have an appeal? Because it can help the preacher to ask herself “What do I want the people to do with this message?” For these reasons, I think you should carefully reconsider the appeal if you are not used to given them in your sermons.