A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor finally confess something I’d been waiting for a pastor to say my entire life. During the middle of his sermon, he declared, “This sermon is going to have four endings.” I was so happy I wanted to give him the world’s most awesome side hug. Finally, a pastor was admitting the difficulty of ending a sermon.
“WHEN THE END IS NEAR”
Seven Signs a Sermon Is (Almost) Over
This blog post is from Jon Acuff and he has heard quite a few sermons in his day. Here’s his handy guide for discerning when the end is near.
Some pastors just preach until the clock runs out and then tie the whole thing off unexpectedly with a prayer. With little or no warning, right after they’ve read a Bible verse, they’ll say, “Dear God, we just thank you for this Sunday.” If you’re in the audience taking notes you don’t even know you’re supposed to have your eyes closed. “Are we in a prayer right now? Was that the end?”
To prevent End of Sermon Whiplash or “ESW,” I’ve collected seven signs that will indicate to you that the ride is about to come to an end. Get your Bibles and your coat. Break yourself, fool, it’s time to go to lunch!
1. “In closing…”
This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about seven minutes left.
2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”
When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.
3. “As we’re wrapping up…”
Technically not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.
4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.
Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just rise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?
5. The pastor closes his Bible.
Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.
6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.
I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backward. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.
7. They start talking faster.
I have two talking speeds – fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have two main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.
Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is nowhere near over.
Me, personally? I don’t worry about the length of a sermon. I let the Holy Spirit take all the time necessary, but I’m probably holier than you are.
Question: What does your pastor say at the end of sermons? Are there any other signs that a sermon is about to end?
Signs affect us in what we do. When you are driving and see one of those red signs that reads “Stop,” you stop. For some, however, that sign simply means, “Slow down a little.” When you see a sign with the word “Slow,” you should slow down. But for many, this sign means absolutely nothing.
|Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” – Acts 1:6-7|
While we can’t pinpoint the return of Jesus Christ to a year or a month or certainly not a day, we can see signs of the times that say it is getting very close. What are these signs? We read them in the headlines every day or hear them on the news or see them on television. I am not prophet. I just read the Bible. And the signs of the times are plainly recorded in Scripture.
The Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies regarding the coming of Messiah to the earth. Through these prophecies, we know that Jesus was the Messiah because He fulfilled every one. He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies pointing to Him. So therefore, when we look at prophecies about our future, we also know they will be fulfilled exactly as God has said, because there are five times more prophecies about His return to earth the second time than there are about His coming the first time. So this means the return of Christ is something the Bible really emphasizes.
Let’s re-connect to scripture and become students of the Word of God again even the ‘hard to comprehend parts’ like prophecy can be studied and understood.
God wants us to know Bible prophecy, because 30 percent of Scripture is dedicated to this topic. It is important to study Bible prophecy, because it teaches us about our future. But it also assures us that God keeps His promises.
You are not an accident of birth. God doesn’t have accidents! The fact that you are here at all is the result of divine providence, God’s hand guiding history. The fact that you are called to be a Christian and set apart for God’s great plan, proves again that he is very deliberate with you. Now that you’re living for him, the Lord wants to declare, even to people that come from afar, that he formed you and set you apart.
God gave you a name before you were born. That means that he was involved in shaping your nature, your destiny and your calling, before you were born.
In fact Isaiah 49:1-2 says it clearly. ‘… Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.’
He’s fitted you with the nature you need to fulfil the purpose he has for your life. You were born for the work he has you doing now and the work you will grow into over time. There’s nothing accidental about your life at all. There is purpose in your existence. Even when it seems that nothing much is happening for you, there’s a purpose in it. There are times when he will hide you in the shadow of his hand. He will put you his quiver, like a sharpened arrow awaiting its appointed task and time. Yet even then, when you’re itching to go and wondering why God is working so slowly, you can remember that he’s keeping you close to himself. You’re not in some storeroom somewhere, momentarily forgotten while God attends to more important matters, or helps more important people. No, you’re in his quiver; you’re on his person and carried by him at all times.
Prayer: ‘Father, I know that you have a very deliberate purpose for my future. Shape the nature that you’ve given me into something that really hits the mark for you. And help me to remember that, even in the slow times, you don’t forget me.’
These days, futurists represent a multi-million dollar industry. These people absorb huge amounts of information about the past and the present in order to suggest predictions about the future. They extrapolate forward to suggest how the past and the present may affect future trends. They charge large corporations tens of thousands of dollars to identify strategic possibilities that might help carry them forward. One leading futurist said this: ‘The important factor to realize is that we know very little about the past, a little more but not everything about the present, and nothing at all about the future.’ Actually, we do know one thing about the future: it is shaped by the choices people make today. The choices you make right now determine not only who and what you will become; they also have a bearing on the destiny of people around you – and especially people who look up to you. We are all carriers of the future, agents of change who leave the world different than how we found it – for better or worse.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ‘… All things are yours … whether the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.’ (NIV)
Reading and applying God’s Word in our lives allows us to project a better future into our present, to set the train of our thoughts and values on a track that leads to a heavenly future. That is the basis of our unique hope: that is what enables us to strengthen people and point them to a better tomorrow.
Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus, help me today to set myself and others up for a better future, by living out the values of your Holy Word. I know that I am a change agent in this world – so help me to change it for the good, by lining up my actions with your Word.’