“So how was your flight?”
When I am asked this question, I typically respond by saying it was a good flight. I speak positively about the flight for one reason. It landed. I may not like my assigned seat. There may have been no room for my bag in the overhead compartment. It may have been a bumpy flight the whole ride. But none of that really matters as long as the flight lands safely.
The same is true of sermons. It may get off to a bumpy start. You may have to play catch up to stay within the allotted time schedule. The people on board may not like where it is headed. But all will be forgiven if you can safely land the sermon at its intended destination.
Hear are seven tips on landing the sermon safely with a strong conclusion.
Give a true conclusion. Don’t just stop. Don’t let the sermon trail off. Don’t preach until you hit your time limit. Don’t go until you run out of material. Don’t simply end by saying a prayer or extending an invitation. Conclude the sermon intentionally. View the sermon as a unit with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Work to craft a conclusion that is clear, compelling, and climatic.
Only conclude once. Paul says, “Finally,” several times in Philippians. But Philippians is divinely inspired. Your sermon on Philippians is not. So when you say, “Finally,” mean it. Avoid serial conclusions. You will only make the congregation nervous if you keep circling the runway. No skilled pilot plays with the landing gear. And flight attendants don’t promise to land early just because the passengers look bored. So don’t go into an unnecessary holding pattern by introducing new material at the end. Land when its time to land.
Know your destination. Where is the sermon going? What’s the point? How should the congregation respond to the truth of the text? The answers to these questions will determine how to end the message. A conclusion cannot reach a place where the sermon does not go. You should take off with a predetermined destination. And the navigational devices of the message should head in that direction and lead to a logical conclusion. A good conclusion is the result of a sermon that had purpose, unity, and movement.
Review the message. It is often said that a speaker should tell the audience what he is going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said. That may be a cliché. But it works. An effective way to conclude a sermon is to review the major points of the message. Don’t just repeat the main ideas. Restate them. Enforce them. Apply them. Illustrate them. Celebrate them. View the conclusion as the introduction in reverse. Close by making the point again.
Issue a call to action. Application should take place throughout the sermon. But the conclusion is a good place to emphasize it. It is self-deception to hear the word without doing what it says (James 1:22). The goal of preaching is application. So end there. Challenge the congregation to live out the teachings of the faith. Exhort them to be doers of the word. Explain why obedience matters. Show them what following Jesus looks like in practical terms.
Run to the cross. Jesus should be the hero of every sermon. And the conclusion is a good place to point your hearers to Christ. Of course, the message should be saturated with the gospel. Christ is not honored when he is mentioned at the end of a message that ignores him throughout. But there is power in concluding with a clear declaration of the gospel. Run to the cross. Call the hearer to repent and believe. End by exalting the sufficiency of Christ’s Person and Work.
Leave a good impression. First impressions are lasting impressions. But so are closing ones. A message that starts with a bang but ends with a whimper loses credibility. A poor conclusion can trump a good introduction and strong main body. So finish strong. Practice clarity. Use variety. Use variety. Make it memorable. Strive for an economy of words. Don’t ramble. Write it out. Be familiar with it. Think of the conclusion as a lawyer’s closing argument. Don’t leave any reasonable doubt. Preach for a verdict.
What tips would you give for effective sermon conclusions? Join the conversation in the comments section.