A few years back, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Dale Meyer talk to my (then) district about preaching. It was not so much an evaluation of preaching content, as it was of style. There are few in our synod who know as much about public speaking as Dr. Meyer, and there was much to learn. While style isn’t everything (or even the main thing) in a sermon, neither should we attempt to make the sermon as boring as possible, just to show that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit. That is, we should try to be engaging in our sermons.
One of the points that he made was that many pastors follow the start-with-a-story technique. This, claims Dr. Meyer, is poor practice. Why? The theory in doing so is that you grab their attention with a story, and then they are with you for the whole sermon. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. When you begin, you already have their attention. They are all looking at you attentively. But in about two or three minutes, they will start to wander, unless pulled back in with something.
Like that great story you started with. Oh, too late, you already used it. His advice was to save the story/illustration/example for later in the sermon. Just dive right in. Why waste time?
Since then, I have tried to do this with my sermons. So thank you, Dr. Meyer for the advice. I was paying attention that day.