Feb 11, 2011

How to Preach: Let's Transition

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A sermon without proper transitions is like an intersection without stop lights! - Crash
One rainy night, on a dark road my car approached an intersection and the lights were flashing yellow. It had been some time since my last road test…does the flashing yellow light mean I stop? What about the other cars, will they stop? Oh yeah, yellow means proceed with caution and as I transitioned through the intersection safely, I saw that they had a flashing red light, so they were stopped at the intersection, waiting for me to pass…safely!

Think with me about the many transitions in a sermon. There is the introduction to the proposition, and then we drive to the overview of the outline, and then turn to the body. Within the body of the text, we motor through the explanation of the text, and then we see the illustrations, and pause at the application. Don’t forget we need to venture further and bring our trip to the end with the conclusion. Of course there might be other windy roads and unfamiliar landscapes as we add content as the spirit leads.  But remember, at each intersection, there must be some kind of transition, some kind of signpost to let your audience now where they are and where they are going. As passengers in your “car” they are listening and wondering what the destination is, when will you stop, and what they should be watching. Because your sermon is “audio”, they need “verbal signposts” or “verbal transitions” to assist them in navigating with you through your message.

So what do these “verbal transitions” sound like? 

Here are my top five “verbal transition techniques”:
1.      Transition by Questioning
b.      Notice at the beginning of paragraph 7 and 8, he begins with a question and then proceeds to answer the question to transition from one paragraph to the next.
c.      Example: But that brings up the question...How? The Apostle Paul has been talking about the ministry of reconciliation.

2.      Transition by Summarizing
b.      Notice at the beginning of sermon he uses this device to transition from the introduction to the body.
c.      Example: I would like to sum up for you the meaning of Education for Exultation:
  •      first, the meaning as it relates to buildings;
  •      second, the meaning as it relates to funding;
  •      third, the meaning as it relates to process; and
  •      fourth, the meaning as it relates to Jesus Christ and the Law of God.

3.      Transition by Foreshadowing
b.      Notice at the beginning of the introduction this preacher prepares our transition with images.
c.      Example: Come now, and let us study together a page in our Master's history. Let us consider what we may learn from the verses of Scripture which stand at the head of this tract. You see Jesus there crossing the lake of Galilee in a boat with his disciples. You see a sudden storm arise while He is asleep. The waves beat into the boat, and fill it. Death seems to be close at hand. The frightened disciples awake their Master and cry for help. He arises and rebukes the wind and waves, and at once there is a calm. He mildly reproves the faithless fears of his companions, and all is over. Such is the picture. It is one full of deep instruction. Come now, and let us examine what we are meant to learn.

4.      Transition by Defining
a.      Example: Affliction is Certain by Gil Rugh
b.      Notice how the preacher defines the word and transitions into an explanation.
c.      Example: Paul says he prays for the Thessalonians "earnestly." This word means "abundantly, beyond all measure, exceedingly, and overflowing all bounds." It is an adverb that describes something that goes beyond all measure. So when Paul says that he is praying "earnestly," he is indicating the intensity with which he prays. This word is used only two other times in the New Testament, both times by Paul. In Ephesians 3:20, Paul says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." We cannot grasp, with our finite minds, all that God can do. It is "exceeding abundantly" all that we can comprehend. This is the same concept used in 1 Thessalonians 3:10. Paul is praying for them more than they could comprehend. His prayers for them are "overflowing." Do you have anyone in your life that you are praying for "earnestly?" Is it any wonder that Paul's ministry was effective?

5.      Transition by Bridging
b.      Notice that this preacher simply takes two ideas, the one previous and the one next up and places it in one sentence.
c.      Example: “And of the houses thereof,” the places where the priests and Levites dwelt. Get a clear view of the houses that Christ gives his people to dwell in; how they dwell in him, how they abide in him, and go no more out for ever. I cannot enlarge on this; but you can think it out for yourselves, and explain it to your hearers and scholars. Think of those mansions of present joy and future bliss which they shall have who come in by the true and living way, even by Christ Jesus, who is the one way of entrance into the temple of salvation.

In wrapping up this topic, here are several websites that provide “transitional words and phrases”:

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