Airplane landings make me as nervous as a rabbit’s nose. I can’t forget one descent into O’Hare Field in Chicago. Apprehension tugged at my stomach muscles as we began an instrument approach toward the nation’s busiest airport. At last the wheels touched down and 130 passengers braced, waiting for the engines to roar into reverse. Instead the plane gathered speed, the front end of the cabin tilted skyward, and the runway disappeared in the swirling mist. Moments later we were back in the stack of jets circling over Lake Michigan. Our captain explained we had touched down too far in and the control tower had ordered us back into the air. Our second landing was perfect, but many passengers were disgruntled at the half-hour delay.

Abortive landings can happen in sermons, too. Listeners get irritated when a speaker reaches a logical stopping point, only to become airborne on a new point or on a repetition of an old one. The speaker who does this can cause listeners to lose not only interest but also their good will toward himself and his subject.

Those who teach the art of public speaking warn that the introduction and conclusion of a message require extra care in preparation. Gerald Kennedy says, “For me the conclusion is the most difficult part of the sermon. If the conclusion is right the most important single thing has been done” (His Word Through Preaching).

The conclusion offers the preacher the opportunity to drive home his central idea one more time. Also, he may impress every listener with the fact that specific action is called for. The conclusion should create the highest emotional level of the message. A dull, apologetic, anti-climactic closing can negate whatever has been accomplished in the body of the sermon.

In his ...

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