Keep introduction and conclusion short. I make it a rule not to go over three minutes. I used to go by the 10% rule. 10% of the sermon time should be devoted to the introduction and another 10% for the ending, but I feel that the 10% can be too long in some of the long sermons I had to preach.
Here’s the real problem. The more the preacher elaborates and explains the introduction and conclusion, the more confused the audience gets. Some audiences find the elaboration interesting and in the process of listening replace the main points with the introductory point. So the introduction or conclusion does not introduce or conclude. Rather, they take away the main points. And NEVER use more than one illustration for the introduction or conclusion. If any sermon needs more than one illustration to introduce or conclude, the sermon has not been thought out well enough.
There is a trend among some homiletic professors to teach the preaching students to use humor to introduce sermons. The theory goes something like this. If the audience feels good from the humor, it will grab the attention. In my experience, such a strategy can backfire. Deliberate usage of humor must be carefully thought out case by case. While humor can be good, it can also distract the audience, especially when the joke is purely for entertainment rather than to introduce the topic of the sermon itself. There are times when jokes seem contrived to the audience as well. Worse yet, the humor may seem insincere and artificial. The listener may suspect that the preacher is deliberately trying to gain the audience’s good will. Some well-informed audiences can smell a canned internet joke miles away. As a rule, I try to keep my remarks such as thanking the choir or worship team brief. This way, no one can accuse me of trying too hard to win the audience by flattery instead of by what I feel is God’s message for that day.
As always, feel free to share your observations as listeners and as preachers as you follow this series. Everyone would most likely benefit.