Granted, the title of a sermon is not it’s most important element. I would be much more concerned about the big idea. You understand, of course, that the title is different than the sermon’s theme statement, right? Theme statements offer the message of the sermon in a single, concise statement. Titles are different. Titles are intended to tease and invite. Titles ought to give just enough information to direct the listener’s attention while sounding just interesting enough to intrigue them. Of course, a solid propositional title like “The Truth of the Trinity” might do it for some, while leaving others yawning. A great title, might make use of the imagery of the sermon in order to captivate the interest of potential listeners. Preachers ought to think of sermon titles the way that publishers think about book titles. You’re trying to “sell” the listener on the possibility of investing energy in the sermon. Creativity is usually in order.
Sermon titles are often the last thing to come in the thinking of the preacher. This is a little bit at odds with popular practice these days. For marketting purposes, preachers are compelled to come up with sermon titles months in advance so that they can be printed in brochures and marketted to the public. The problem, of course, is that when the preacher prepares the title before preparing the sermon, one could have the problem of the cart before the hermeneutic. Best, in that case, to give one’s self a little bit of wiggle room in the construction of the title so that the title does not mitigate against a proper treatment of the text.
Sometimes, a subtitle helps. With a subtitle, one can express more creativity with the main title and give the detail in the subtitle. For instance, “A Healthy Appetite: Learning to Curve our Appetite for Sin” (Romans 6, 7). This title introduces some of the sermon’s imagery (appetite) while still giving some direction with regard to the sermon content.
Titles might not be the most important aspect of the sermon, however, they can certainly help. A good title can create a sense of anticipation among this listeners. Most preachers would welcome a room full of listeners who are attentively anticipating what they will hear in the sermon to come.
Consider the following sermon titles taken from the internet and elsewhere. Which of them compel your interest? Which of them confuse you? What would you expect to hear from these various sermons? How might you improve on them?
*The Cross and the Cradle
*Lessons from a Lost Soul
*How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage
*It is Finished
*Enjoying the Rest of Your Life
*What God Can Do Through Ordinary You
*Wrath and Mercy