Here’s a provoking thought that anyone who teaches from the Bible should consider:
The last step in principlizing a passage is to give the message a strong conclusion. The messages of about two hundred years ago that remain in print excel in their ability to draw stirring conclusions. More recently, we have tended to specialize in emphasizing the introduction. In fact, we have usually overindulged ourselves in the art of introducing texts and messages. We have begun with references to the weekly newsmagazines, recent editorials, various opinion polls, and with quotes from prominent authors from the past. Meanwhile, much of our allotted time has been eaten up (sometimes up to one-fifth of it), and we still have not brought God’s people near to the text. It is almost as if we were afraid to cut that text loose on God’s people.
We need to reevaluate our priorities in this matter of introductions. I would urge God’s ministers and teachers of the Word in every type of ministry inside and outside of the Church to severely limit their work on the introduction and to devote that time and those energies of preparation to an expanded and clearly-thought-out conclusion.
—Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology, p. 163
I’ve endured a few sermons where I began to get antsy during a ridiculously long introduction where the preacher was clearly trying to impress or entertain his audience with stories and jokes. I’ve also endured many sermons and lessons—some of them my own—where the conclusion was tagged on as an afterthought or rushed through because the rest of the lesson took too long.
I love how Kaiser won’t let us off the hook for this. Why would we put so much emphasis on the introduction, when we haven’t even touched the text, and so little on the conclusion, when we are to be explaining its relevance and applying it? Are we that unimpressed with God’s Word? And if so, should we be surprised if our congregations are unimpressed as well? And if they are, what should be our response: inventing more entertaining introductions, or meditating on the text for more stirring conclusions?