Chapter 131

Suspense

Why everybody-including your Sunday audience-loves a mystery

Many preachers are taught a well-organized sermon requires a clear preview and review. Tell the audience what you will say, say it, and then tell them what you said.

Hogwash! I can't think of a more tedious way to communicate the Good News than to sap it of all intrigue.

Movies, novels, stories, even jokes—every effective communication medium uses suspense as part of its appeal. Every one, that is, except the sermon. In an effort to be clear and concise, many sermon writers have jettisoned the element of suspense, leaving their outlines with all the wonder of a dishwasher instruction manual.

Suspense keeps listeners involved. Who walks away from a joke half-told? Anticipation of the punch line grips the listeners. Yet people routinely tune out in the middle of sermons. Why? There's no suspense.

Master storytellers can speak much longer than a preacher, yet maintain the rapt attention of their audience. Garrison Keillor, for example, knows how to keep the audience hooked by "letting ...

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