The Best Way to Finish a Sermon
Joe McKeeverJoe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
- 2015 Dec 30
Everyone has opinions about sermons. Those of us who deliver them are always looking for the most effective way to get one across. The great majority of people–those who have to listen to them!–have opinions also. Most say they want the conclusion as close to the introduction as possible, but I suspect that’s mostly a tease. Surely anyone who bothers to get dressed and drive to church and sit through a worship service wants the sermon to be worthwhile and to do its “perfect work.” So, we all have interests in this.
Most preachers spend far more time on the introduction than on the conclusion, and I think that’s a mistake.
Would a sales person spend all his time planning a pitch for the product without a thought as to getting the customer’s name on the dotted line? That signature is the whole point.
The response to the sermon is the point of the message.
This assumes the pastor is preaching for life-change. He is delivering a message based on the eternal Word of the Living God to people in serious need of Christ. He should approach his task reverently and faithfully, deliver the message carefully and dutifully, and do all in his power to drive it home.
When the people leave the House of God, they should know they have heard from the Lord today.
The conclusion to the sermon is a big part of that, how the message ends and how it leaves them.
So, what would be the best way to conclude a sermon?
Some would say the best way is just to quit. To shut up and sit down.
That seems a little abrupt though. Harsh, even.
We have all teased that the preacher “missed several good stopping places” in his sermon. I’ve heard that, said that, and been guilty of doing that.
But there really is a “best way” to end a sermon.
Here are some thoughts on the subject….
End your sermon intentionally, not because you ran out of time or energy or stuff. Doing that takes planning. So, you should plan your dismount as well and as thoroughly as you do your takeoff.
End your sermon positively, not haranguing the people but calling them to greatness and commitment.
End your sermon while they’re still wanting more, before you have exhausted their patience and exceeded their endurance.
End the sermon seriously, not with a joke or some silly reference. Creativity works best in the introduction, but not so much in the conclusion.
End the sermon naturally, not forcing another point onto the message, one you forgot earlier, or something that just occurred to you. Stay with your plan. And if you forgot something you meant to insert in the message earlier, save it.
End the way you began–with a reference to what you started with. Suppose you began your sermon with a story. What issue did the story raise that launched your message? Now, return to that issue and drive that point home.
End the sermon clearly, making plain what you are asking your hearers to do during the invitation. As a matter of fact, those who do invitations well suggest you explain what you are asking people to do at least two or three times in the body of the sermon, so you’re not springing it on them at the conclusion.
End your sermon wisely and freshly, not tacking on some hackneyed altar call that sounds exactly like the last 95 altar calls you extended. Plan it, pray over it, and prepare.
The preacher told the church, “My job is to preach and your job is to listen. If you get through before I do, please be patient and I’ll try to do the best I can.”
That’s all anyone asks, pastor. Do the best you can.
Publication date: December 30, 2015