Toward A Strong Finish

“If there are two places in the sermon,” remarks the Archbishop of York, “which call for more care than others, they are the beginning and the ending.”

Agreed! After unanimous consent has been gained on this point, one other point too enjoys virtually complete support from students of the preaching task: the desirability of giving to both introductions and conclusions the spice of variety.

But now, granted that endings are crucially important and that the form of them should not be so repetitious as to lose all suspense or surprise, what are the possibilities from which the preacher can choose?

“There are four approved methods,” is the over-precise dictum of one author who normally speaks with fine discretion. With less stress on mathematical exactitude, let us think of some of the options at the preacher’s command:

1. There is the “built in” conclusion. It belongs to the sermon whose outline has been so carefully and convincingly developed that when the final point is presented, it rounds off the whole, creating a kind of natural climax.

2. There is the “recapitulation” conclusion. The word is not attractive, nor (too often) is the practice which it represents. Merely to go back over the main points in bare reiteration is hardly enough. This negative judgment, however, must not be too austere. It depends on who is doing it and how impressively it is done. What some men do with excellent taste and memorable finesse is to cast the “recap” in fresh language. When this is skillfully done, a latecomer, arriving for the final two or three minutes of the sermon, might easily catch the whole idea and burden of the message. Those who have been with the preacher from the start have the truth sharpened for them into ...

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