You can tell a bad sermon conclusion by the audible punctuation it ends with. Audible punctuation has to do with the tone, confidence, and intensity of the sentence you say. It doesn’t necessarily match the punctuation in your sermon notes.
Powerless endings to your sermon
Audible punctuation is more important in your conclusion than any other part of your sermon. Are any of these sermon endings typical for you?
The ellipsis… The worst way to conclude your sermon is to trail off with sentimental mush. We’re all guilty of this one. Because we don’t exactly know what to say, our mouth fills up with enough evangelical clichés to make a Christian radio host blush. What should have been a unique sermon leaves God’s people with the impression that it was just like the rest.
The question mark? The second worst way to end your sermon is with a question. No matter what the weather is, God’s people must leave your church confidently basking in the sunny skies of the gospel, not waterlogged with the rain of confusion. Send them out knowing – not wondering – where they stand before God, and how he expects them to live.
The period. At least the audible period feels like an ending. The ellipsis and the question mark say, “I don’t know how to finish this thing!” But the period is still a few cylinders shy of a sports car. It may leave your audience intellectually satisfied, but they won’t be excited to put the spiritual pedal to the metal.
Thing is, the conclusion is not only the end of your message. For God’s people, it’s the beginning of another week of wrestling with adversaries in the heavenly places, not to mention their own flesh.
None of these endings will send God’s people out with power to fight or desire to change. The ellipsis is too unprepared to conclude with power. The question mark is too embarrassed to conclude with power. The period is too stoic to conclude with power.
How to conclude your sermon with power
It takes an exclamation point to conclude with power. This isn’t about volume as much as effect. Even your whispers can punch like exclamation points if you do these four things.
1. Give the power! Connect the big idea of your sermon to the work of Jesus. If the gospel is not in your conclusion, there’s no power. Our only hope for change is that we have been crucified and raised in Christ, and that we have his Spirit.
2. Show the power! Use an illustration to show that the gospel affects every situation we face, not just our eternity.
3. Command the power! Use imperatives to challenge your people to respond to the grace of the gospel. Tell your people to do something about what they just heard.
4. Convey the power! The preacher transmits power to his people with eye contact. Memorize the last sentence of your sermon. Speak it through their eyes into their hearts.
You don’t have to be a yelling pastor to do this. If you have been preaching in one place for any length of time, your audience will hear the difference between your audible periods and exclamation points. I’m not asking you to change your personality.
Just your punctuation.