G. Campell Morgan said, “Every conclusion must conclude, include, and preclude.”
To conclude means to bring the message to an end. Don’t just stop preaching.
To include means to repeat what was previously said (But NOT a re-preaching of the sermon)
To preclude means to prevent the proposition from not being responded to.
“Some preachers are in their approach toward the runway when, at an altitude of only a few feet from the ground, they get a new thought and —instead of landing —zoom up into the air again. Then, once more, they circle the field, line up with the landing strip, lower their flaps and start to come in for the landing, only to shoot up into the sky instead” (Jay Adams, Preaching with Purpose, p. 66). Haddon Robinson adds that your conclusion should not resemble a crash (Steven Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative, 150).
In the conclusion you do not answer any more questions. You have answered all of your listeners’ questions with your rhetorical processes: See Seven Steps to Preparing a Sermon, Step 5 (Develop the Sermon Outline) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4.
Explanation: “What does this passage mean?”
Argumentation: “How do you know this is the meaning?”
Illustration: “What does the truths of this passage look like?”
Application: “What do the truths of this passage have to do with my life?”
In the conclusion, you do not introduce new material, you exhort your listeners to respond to the proposition.
Conclude and exhort your listeners to respond to the proposition with
1. A series of exhortations:
“From this day forward, let’s determine that we will be the kind of parent who seeks to raise a godly child.”
“He is our Lord, the one who has given us life and will give us eternity. Let us live pleasing to him!”
2. A series of questions which are not introspective but affirmative:
“An appropriate question, or even a series of questions, can conclude a sermon effectively. A sermon on the Good Samaritan ended: ‘Let me conclude where I began. Do you love God? That’s splendid. I’m glad to hear that. A second question: Do you love your neighbor? How can we talk about loving God whom we have not seen if we do not love our brothers and sisters and our neighbors whom we do see? If you do love your neighbors, do you mind if I ask them?” (Robinson, 178).
3. A story that captures your proposition and main points:
I preached a sermon entitled: “You can Fail and not be a Failure.” The sermon was a biographical sermon on the life of John Mark. I introduced the sermon with the story of Daniel Ruettiger or “Rudy.” In addition to the information the film provides you can read about Rudy in John Maxwell’s book Failing Forward or Rudy Ruettiger’s book Rudy’s Rules. Here is how Maxwell tells the story: “Rudy” desperately wanted to play football for Notre Dame. You may have seen the film based on his life called Rudy. It was a good movie, but his real story is even more remarkable and compelling.
The first of fourteen children in a poor working–class family, Rudy loved sports as a kid and believed that might be his ticket out of Joliet, Illinois. In high school, he gave himself completely to football, but his heart was much greater than his physique. He was slow, and at five feet six inches tall and 190 pounds, he wasn’t exactly built for the game.
As a senior, he began dreaming about attending Notre Dame and playing football there. But Rudy faced another problem. His grades showed less promise than his physique. “I finished third in my class,” he is fond of saying. “Not from the top, but from the bottom.” He was a D student. He graduated from high school with a 1.77 grade point average.
For the next several years, Rudy changed his focus from one thing to another. He tried attending junior college for one semester but flunked every class. He went to work for two years at the local Commonwealth Edison power plant in Joilet—what he considered to be the ultimate dead-end job. And even did a two-year hitch in the navy, which turned out to be a turning point for him. That’s where he discovered that he wasn’t dumb and that he could handle responsibility.
After his military service, he returned to Joliet and again worked in the power plant. He was more determined than ever to go to Notre Dame, despite the criticism of his family, friends, and coworkers. He knew he was not a failure, and he would find a way to go to South Bend.
If you saw the movie, then you know that Rudy eventually made it. He quit his job, moved to South Bend, and managed to get into Holy Cross College, a community college affiliated with the university. He attended the college for two years and earned a 4.0 average every semester before Notre Dame accepted him. He entered his dream school at age twenty-six—eight years after graduating from high school.
With two years of sports eligibility remaining, he went out for football. And he made the team as a scrub, one of the warm bodies they put in practice to keep the good players sharp. But Rudy made the most of it. He worked hard, and after a year, he went from the bottom of the scrubs all the way up to sixth string—the top of the scrubs. His last year, he worked hard again. And in the final game of his final season, Rudy lived his dream by getting to play.
In the movie, Rudy Ruettiger gets in for only one play at the end of the game, and he sacks the quarterback. But that’s not how it really happened.
“In real life, I had two chances to get the quarterback,” says Rudy. “The first play, I didn’t get there in time. I was too anxious and didn’t execute the play. I failed.” But once again, Rudy didn’t let his failure make him a failure. He was determined to fail forward.
“I knew this was the last chance I would ever get,” he explains. “When they snapped the ball, I wasn’t worried about failing . I’d done that already, and I knew why I had failed. That’s how you eliminate that fear. You keep learning until you have the confidence to perform when you have to . . .When they snapped the ball for the last time, I put the moves I’d rehearsed in my mind on the guy over me and I got the quarterback.”
Overjoyed, the team carried him off the field in celebration. Rudy says it’s the only time that’s happened to a player in the history of Notre Dame football.
In the sermon on John Mark, after reveiwing his biography in the ten references to him in the New Testament (Mark 14:47-52; Acts 12:12; 12:25; 13:5; 13:13; 15:37-39; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13; 2 Timothy 4:10), I draw two principles from his life:
1) Our sins and failures can be costly.
2) Our sins and failures can be invaluable, if we learn from them.
I conclude the sermon with Rudy’s life today as a motivational speaker and the story of Rudy not giving up on Hollywood producing a movie about his life. “Of course, it wasn’t easy for him. It took him six years to see that happen. (Two years less than it took him to get to Notre Dame!).
The people in Hollywood told him, ‘You’re not Paul Horning or Joe Montana.’ Rudy agreed.
‘There’s only one of them,’ he explained. ‘There’s a million of me’” (John Maxwell. Failing Forward. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000, 31-33).
There are a million average people like Rudy who have failed but are not failures. You can come to Christ with your failures and He will make you a success for His glory in the ways He chooses.
The Importance of a Purpose Statement
In the conclusion you exhort them to do or respond to the one purpose for which you have been preaching for about 40 minutes.
“The noted preacher A. W. Dale was evidently a man who was as secure as the Rock of Gibraltar. Every Saturday evening he delivered his sermon to his wife. One day, after he had gone through this exercise, his wife asked, ‘Tell me, why are you preaching this sermon?’” (Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 106). A purpose statement is the why you are preaching your sermon.
In the conclusion write a purpose statement: What is the one specific result you want to see as a result of preaching your proposition.
1. A listener should be able to list the spiritual gifts and determine which gifts he or she has been given.
2. A listener should be able to write down the name of at least one non-Christian and should resolve to pray for that individual each day for the next two weeks. (If listeners do something for two weeks, they have a better chance of doing it for several months.)
3. Christians should be able to explain what people must believe to become Christians and should plan to speak to at least one person about the Lord in the coming week (Robinson, 110-111).
In the conclusion the preacher not only summarizes his main points but exhorts his listeners to “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”