Monday, May 25, 2015

I Really Liked That Sermon!

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.– 2 Timothy 4:1–4 (NASB95)
Allow me to reveal something that every preacher would love to know. We want to know, not so much how well you enjoyed the sermon we just preached, but whether it was a “good” sermon, a “helpful” sermon, a “useful” sermon. Different preachers might attach a few additional descriptive words, but you get the idea. We want to know, “did it work?”

I have to tell you, this is a major concern of any and every preacher who wants to succeed at delivering God’s word to his audience.

Preachers are accustomed to getting a few responses after the assembly is over. We stand near the door to shake hands and greet people as they leave. We hear lots of comments:
“I really liked that sermon!”
“I enjoyed that one.”
“You really told them today!”
“I wish _____ had been here to day to  hear that one.”
“That was the best sermon I’ve ever heard.”
“Thank you for that lesson. It was helpful.”
“I’ve always wondered about that passage.”
“I’ve never heard it put quite like that!”

Those are the positive comments (and others). Sometimes we’ll hear a negative response. I’ve heard everything from, “I disagree with everything you said today” (really? everything?), To “I’m so upset I can’t even talk to you right now.” Usually when people don’t like a sermon, they just slip out quietly and say nothing, or they simply speak, shake your hand and move on. But preachers always wonder whether or not the sermon they preached was, in any way, positive.

H.B. Charles, in an article titled, How’d It Go? (preachingtoday.com), gave some excellent guidelines to measure Sunday’s sermon. Condensed to just his main points, here is his list of measures:
A faithful exposition
A prepared message
A Christ-centered focus
A pastoral concern
A consecrated heart
A trusting abandonment

Some of those points might not make sense to those who don’t preach, but most of us who do will likely see his points as valid. Still, the problem is that even this list is mostly focused on the preacher and his message. Truth be told, a sermon can get five stars on each of the above points and still fail. Or it can be a one-star sermon and end up being great.

I quit trying to judge the value of a sermon long ago. I still marvel that sermons I think are home-runs, few, if anybody, has much to say about it. Then I preach a sermon that I think stinks. A dozen people will tell me wonderfully positive things and ask for CDs. I don’t get it. Never have, and probably never will.

Preaching God’s word is somewhat of a mystery. Isaiah 55:11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  (NASB)

A sermon, if it is true to God’s word, won’t fail. The problem is there just isn’t any way to measure it’s worth. Well, perhaps there is one way. But it’s virtually impossible to measure in numbers. You have to look at the lives of the people who hear the sermons. Even then, the sermon might have been excellent. But no sermon is over until those who hear, act.