Preaching and the Importance of Landing The Plane

I felt this panic come over me. At this point I had only taught a handful of times and I found myself at the end of my notes. I had nothing left to talk about, I’d made all three of my points and I was done. Out of nowhere I said a concluding sentence, prayed and walked off stage. The only thing worse would have been to drop my mic in the process.

I was new to this preaching thing and had spent all my time working on the main points of my message. I had completely forgot about how I was going to “land it”. In turn, it was a completely abrupt, drop out of the sky finish that left everyone jarred and confused.

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Very often we don’t give our conclusion enough credit.

Some times we treat it like an obligation. We repeat everything we’ve already covered, we pray, cover that same material again in our prayer…and then we dismiss.

Our closing is so much more than that. It is the “landing of the plane” after a journey through life and scripture together. 

In order for a conclusion to be as effective as possible we need to know how we are going to end our message (aka “land the plane”) before we even begin writing our message.

A predefined conclusion becomes the deciding factor.

By knowing where you are headed with a given message, you now have the necessary tools to help you focus your content. Does the funny story you want to tell help you move toward your conclusion?

Just like flying a plane, your planning is heavily effected by where your flight is ending. Your destination helps you decide how much fuel to bring, how many staff will be necessary, etc. The same is true with teaching. Knowing how you will conclude your message helps you decide what is most important to teach and what can wait for another day.

A predefined conclusion helps the landing seem smoother.

Landing a plane doesn’t just happen over the runway, it’s something that begins miles out. The pilot begins a process of steps down as he prepares the plane to land.

The same is true in preaching. Moving toward conclusion isn’t just a summary of the message, it is helping your audience answer the question “So what?”

Your conclusion helps them to bring your message down to earth and to apply it to their every day life.

A predefined conclusion means you can answer this question:

What do I want my audience to do as a result of this message?

The answer to that question is your conclusion, it is the landing strip for your message.

Your conclusion is the landing strip for your message.
— StevenJBarker

Take that question a step further and outline what implementation looks like for each demographic in your audience (singles, married, job seekers, managers, men, women, students, etc.)

Understanding your conclusion prior to writing your message helps to focus your preparation time and to focus your content.

Still struggling uncover your predefined conclusion? Read “The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message”.

Is This Church For Me? 3 Things People Checking Out Your Church Are Looking For In Your Preaching

If your church is going to grow people are going to have to visit…and stay. It doesn’t matter if they are exploring the idea of faith or looking for a new church home, the average person is asking 3 questions when they walk through the doors of your church.

Their experience as they enter your property, check in their kids, and find a seat will be their first impression, but your preaching is going to be the place they get their biggest questions answered.


Here are the three big questions a guest is asking when they listen to you preach:

  1. Do they understand my circumstances?

    No matter what kind of background your guest comes from, they come with experience. They come with a current life scenario and they listen to your message through that filter. Does this guy (or gal) understand what I’m dealing with? Does what they are saying even apply to my life?

    The easiest way to address this is to understand your audience make up. Make a list of every general type of person listening (completely new to faith, experienced, single, married, divorced, unemployed, etc). Then review your message from their perspective and assess whether you are addressing them in a clear and respectful manner.
  2. Are they judging me or helping me?

    If a guest is visiting your church they’ve either never been to church before or they’ve got some kind of baggage from another church (good or bad). They want to know what kind of friend you are going to be.

    Are you going to be the kind that is always telling them what they are doing wrong? Or are you going to be the one that listens and offers helpful, caring advice?
  3. Are they going to help me grow?

    Everyone that walks through the doors of your church walks through at a different “level” of spiritual maturity. Some are taking their first steps, others are learning to run on their own. Both want to know if you are going to help them take their unique next steps in faith.

    Consider clarifying what a next step looks like for each level of spiritual growth. How does any given message you preach help each person take their next spiritual step?

Just like at the beginning of any friendship, both parties are looking to see if the other listens. Do they even care or do they just like to hear themselves speak. It is no different the first time they listen to you preach.

Be a good friend, understand what they are looking for and where they are coming from. Then help them see what one step closer to Christ looks like.


If you read one article about 3 point preaching, read this one.

The three point sermon has been around for as long as most of us can remember. In fact, its roots are in medieval scholasticism. Designed to articulate and defend as set of beliefs, the three point sermon can on one hand provide a thorough understanding of a scripture or theory, but it can also transform a living, breathing community gathering into a lifeless lecture.

I remember learning the art of the 3 point sermon in college. It made sense but seemed eerily similar to writing a research paper. I could feel the life being sucked out of me imagining a future filled with weekly sermons covered in a professor's "red pen" corrections.

Over the last several hundred years three point sermons may have had their place, but in a community reaching church they may have run their course.


The 3 Point Roots

A three point sermon is a dialectical teaching method originally designed as a non-emotional discussion between two scholars. In an effort to discover the truth, two or more individuals would calmly debate an issue to better understand the truth hidden beneath the surface.

Preaching in this traditional style means presenting two opposing views of the issue at hand. For example, if you were teaching on the Sovereignty of God your three points may follow this form.

Point 1. The Sovereignty of God
Point 2. The will of Man
Point 3. How they co-exist.

This form of teaching has it’s place when teaching theology, but I would argue that that debate of theology isn’t the first sermon I want my neighbor to hear when I invite them to church for the first time.


The More Common 3 Point Message

The more common modern 3 point message is built around delivering the top three reasons a truth is a truth. For example, if your teaching was focused on the approachability of Christ, you may unpack Hebrews, chapter 4.

Point 1. Jesus, our great High-Priest (v14)
Point 2. Jesus, undeniably sympathetic (v15)
Point 3. Jesus, merciful and gracious. (v16)

Again, these points are truth, but it seems as though our message is still based in the ancient Greek debate. It seems like we are just trying to convince our audience.


The Danger of the 3 Point Message

The danger of a 3 point message is that it too closely resembles a scholastic exercise and it doesn’t very often consider the audience. More often then not, it only considers the text.


The (2nd) Most Important Thing About Preaching

The most important thing about preaching is obviously truth, but a very close second is the audience. What you teach about any given scriptural truth must first consider the current condition of your audience. How are they struggling with the truth you are teaching? How are they experiencing it in their life right now? What is their context?

What Jesus, Paul and much of the New Testament authors did so well was to consider their audience.

Jesus spoke to Jews in a way that challenged their current belief.

Paul wrote to the church addressing specific issues they were facing.

They considered their audience.

First, looking at the text you will be teaching from next week, what is it teaching? What should your audience be doing after reading this text?

Then consider your audience. What are they doing? Which if their life situations does this truth apply to? Why is it an important truth for them to internalize?

Then spend your time helping them navigate their currently situation to apply the teaching.

Preaching isn’t an academic exercise, it’s an adventure in shepherding.

Preaching isn’t an academic exercise, it’s an adventure in shepherding.
— StevenJBarker