Make a Strong Beginning

KINDLY CORRECTIVES: Make a Strong Beginning

How to effectively start a sermon

Manager, Manila  Sanitarium, Philippine Island

One of the requisites of an effective talk or a good sermon is a strong beginning. Yet how often our ministers and those who lead out in church services forget or ignore this important fact!

Recently a minister of long experience in teaching and preaching stepped to the pulpit, and in a lifeless voice said, "When I was asked to take this service I wondered what I might say to you. I, er, thought a lot about it, and finally decided to talk on the subject of——" The manner, tone of voice, and words of that minister had about the same effect as if he had said, "I'm not very well prepared to speak to you, and I have nothing much to say.

That opening did something to the members of that congregation. A psychological reaction passed through many minds in the group, something as follows: "This will not be very good. Apparently he does not have notes or convictions on many subjects. I doubt if he will have much of a message for us. I can now indulge in a little private meditation. It will be easier than listening, and it will bring me about as much benefit."

This minister went on to develop his subject, and before long made a statement that partly aroused the interest of the audience. The reaction was: "He said he didn't have much to offer, but he has just given us a challenging thought. He may have something worth listening to after all."

A little later other good thoughts were presented, and soon the audience began to realize that this study was going to be worthwhile. But the sad part of the story is that it took this speaker at least ten minutes to win his doubting hearers over from passive sitting to active listening. And many never did recover enough to get the full benefit of the study.

We have often heard the statement that first impressions are the most lasting-. And this applies to a speech. Many speakers must work hard during their speeches to wake an audience that has been lulled to repose by a beginning that in itself announced that it was not going to be necessary to think for the next half hour.

A strong beginning involves the manner, the voice, and the words. How much better it would have been if the minister in question had stepped to the pulpit in an energetic manner, and in a voice full of life and strong enough to be heard in the back row combined his manner, his voice, and his first twenty-five words to make his audience feel that they were going to hear something that would be useful to them the rest of their lives!

When a speaker steps before an audience he naturally has their curiosity and interest for a few seconds at the very beginning. The way he acts in those few seconds will determine the amount of interest he will have for the next half hour. If he loses that interest in the first few seconds, it will be very difficult, if not im possible, to win it back.

With the first sentence, seize the attention, and then do not let it go. Arouse the curiosity of the audience, and make them anxious to know what is coming. This can best be done by a well-planned opening. Do not leave it. To chance or the inspiration of the moment. Plan it; think it out; use your voice, your words, your personality, to put it across. Then the words of life you have to give will fall upon the fertile soil of listening ears and attentive minds.



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Manager, Manila  Sanitarium, Philippine Island

February 1950

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