We live in a skeptical age. Fifty years ago, preachers didn’t have to work very hard convincing church goers to believe their message. Today, many of our listeners, especially millennials, question everything they hear. We can’t assume all of our listeners will be on board with us. We must first persuade listeners to believe in our message before we can motivate them to act on it.
Recently I had a fascinating conversation with a sharp law professor who is a former trial lawyer. She shared that a preacher and a trial lawyer have the same goal: persuade a group of people to believe in a message and act on it. She also observed that effective preachers and trial lawyers use virtually the same persuasive strategies to make their message credible and compelling.
For your next sermon try seeing your listeners as a jury and use the following rhetorical strategies:
Promise to solve the case
Every jury is faced with a dilemma: Is the defendant(s) innocent or guilty? Trial lawyers prepare opening statements from the jury’s perspective. They realize that members of the jury have a problem to solve. Therefore, a good opening statement will validate the jury’s dilemma and promise to solve it. Effective opening statements clearly and confidently express why the argument is true and convey what’s at stake in the jury’s decision.
The introduction of your sermon should include the same elements. An effective sermon introduction should answer the following questions: What dilemma or problem will I be addressing? What is at stake for my listeners? How will I help solve their problem and why is it important to them? Right off the bat your sermon must validate your listeners’ experience of the problem and clearly and confidently promise to solve it.
Lay out the evidence…