The introduction is critical. It is the take off. If you have a smooth take off, the congregation will trust you and go with you to the landing. If the take off is choppy, it will be hard for them to “enjoy the ride.” So I will say it again: The introduction is critical. Take the time and do the hard work to think through how you will begin the message itself. If you work hard here you will not have to work hard during the message itself.
Let me recommend 2 approaches.
First, use the introduction to illustrate and/or show the need to heed the overall purpose of the sermon. This approach is used when you have a great story or thought that illustrates the main purpose of what you want the sermon to achieve. This approach uses an introduction to go ahead and “show all of your cards” at the beginning.
Second, use the introduction as a quick and easy entry into the sermon itself. You may want to build and lead to the purpose and point of the sermon. In other words, you may want to save the purpose until the end. In that case, find or think through a thought that draws the audience into the text itself. This approach let’s the audience know you have a good deck of cards in your hand, but you don’t show ’em until the close.
In either case, you want the introduction to be a means by which you bring the audience along with you in a way that compels them to go with you. You want them to WANT to go with you through the guts of the sermon.
What other approaches have you found helpful?