Rhetoric & Homiletics: “In Conclusion”

airplane landing  The Landing Matters, Not Just The Flight!


√  The closing words of a sermon should be planned and purposeful. 

There have been times when I as a listener have thought that the “conclusion” of the sermon was generally unplanned.  It seemed to be was worked out on the spot.

There are typical clues that seemingly accompany an unplanned conclusion:

• indefinite words and wording: “Things need to change in our lives.”
• a broad general theological statement(s) is made:  “We need to be more faithful to the Lord.”
• a closing prayer sounds more like what should have been said in the conclusion.   It almost sounds like the message more than a prayer
• a disclaimer is made: “We’ve run out of time.” —  “I wish we had more time to get to . . . , but . . . .”


√  The conclusion is not merely a summary or restatement of the points of the message. 

There is something to be said in the advice:

1. Tell them what you will tell them. — The Introduction

2. Tell them. — The Body

3. Tell them what you just told them. — The Conclusion

That simple piece of advice may be good for the novice speaker, but not for the individual who will spend his life communicating to an audience, a serial audience!

“A Summary Conclusion” forfeits the opportunity to drive the point of the message.  At best, it only reviews and reminds the audience of the points which they have already heard.


√  The conclusion is typically worked on and “written out” after the message is complete. 

You can’t conclude appropriately if you are not sure what you are going to say, and what points you will be making — specifically.  What was the content of the message, which makes this conclusion different from any other possible conclusion?

Note: Starting out with the conclusion is a clear indicator that you are starting out with the point you want to make and find a biblical passage that you can use to make that point.


√  The conclusion is not where you make the point, which was not clear or evident over the past 30 – 40 minutes.

You should know, and the audience should know what you are trying to communicate long before you get to the conclusion.  The audience should not be trying to make sense out of what you are saying, and then finally realize it because you now do that for them in the conclusion.

The conclusion will flow out of the content.  The audience will not be surprised by the conclusion, which up to this point was unclear and uncertain — “Oh, that’s what he is getting at.”

At times, it is possible for “take off” with the audience aboard, but they have no idea where you are taking them.  The audience had little to no idea as to where you were taking, but “whatever” — now they are landing, and now they know.

It is as the audience understands the sermon, that they will naturally follow you into the conclusion.  In fact, they will actually identify the fact that the sermon is about to wrap up.

The landing should be part of the flight — no surprises!


√  The conclusion provides a final opportunity to state, restate, drive home the Big Idea.

Unlike the introduction, which seeks to grab the interest and attention of the listeners, the conclusion seeks to drive home the point(s) which has been the focus for the audience for the past 30 – 40 minutes.

It is not a place to clarify.
It is not a time to emphasize one of the previous points.
It is not a time to rehash the message.
It is not the place to dredge up what wasn’t really said well.
It is not the time to promote interest (Do that in the Intro).
It is not the time to lay out yet other applications.
It is not the time to verbally alert your audience — “In conclusion”

“In conclusion . . . ” / “Let me wrap it up.” / “Let me end by saying . . . . ” may be a verbal indicator to the audience to “check out.”  The “landing” should be just another smooth part of the flight.  The audience should be somewhat off-guard by how the conclusion simply flowed with the message.


Note:  Probably most all of us have done the “In conclusion” kind of ending.  Some have done the “in conclusion” – “in conclusion” and “in conclusion.”

Nevertheless, on the “good-better-best” continuum, the best is . . . . .

to have the landing feel as natural as the previous part of the flight.




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