Pastors rarely receive meaningful feedback from their sermons. For some pastors this is a relief, for me it is a significant disappointment.
Most of the sermon feedback I receive comes at the sanctuary exit and consists of short compliments or silence with a cold handshake. Perhaps once every two years I preach a sermon that so angers a parishioner, they will light a fire under me and round up a mob to attack me … at least they were listening.
Once a man was so mad after a worship service he grabbed my shirt and started hollering in my face which he placed 3 inches from his. The source of his anger would have made me laugh if I were not fearful that his spit would shoot into my throat. This is not the type of feedback I desire.
Once I preached a sermon on sin and repentance, which lead to a major upheaval in the life of the congregation. Two members made tearful confessions to each other in the restroom after worship. Turns out that they and at least one other member were having an affair with a member of the Church Staff. While I did not enjoy the institutional trauma and uproar this sermon caused, I have to list it as one of my most effective sermons. It produced results!
Pastors appreciate the compliments they receive after worship and while we may squirm a bit in our seat, we are grateful that a parishioner will speak to us about a sermon which made them angry. However, this is not the type of feedback which I seek.
I long for meaningful feedback in two areas after I preach:
- Did the sermon change you, your habits, lifestyle, worldview, etc?
- Did my exegetical work help you know more about God and better understand the scripture? Did you find my exegetical work faithful to the text?
Did my sermon change you? I no longer preach for entertainment value or to showcase my exegetical, expository, and elocutionary gifts and skills. I now preach for results – changed hearts, minds, and lives. I’d love to know if the sermon changed your living.
While I never write or preach a sermon for a specific individual, I will say things that I hope a few specific people will hear and to which I pray they will respond. I dropped about 10 of these lines in yesterday’s sermon. I wonder if what I said changed any hearts or at least prompted someone to reflect on their life.
Did you learn something new about God? I consider myself a Teaching Pastor, thus it is my desire that as a listener you learn something about God, Jesus, or the Christian faith, from my sermon. Sometimes I will intentionally approach a scripture passage from a different exegetical perspective. I’d love to know if my approach helped you and if it was or was not faithful to the text.
While I always seek to be faithful to the text, in yesterday’s sermon I preached the text from an expository angle which I have never heard preached. I’d love to know if anyone found this helpful or if anyone thought I was off my rocker.
I spend 25-30 hours each week in sermon preparation – specific study, reflective discernment, and actual composition. As my wonderful wife will tell you, “Sunday’s sermon is always on my mind.” Yet, in spite of all my work, I realize that the final sermon is a gift from God for the Church and that I am a simple vessel for His communication.
Knowing that The Lord and I have put so much into the sermon, I’d love to have some meaningful feedback … how the sermon made a difference in your life.
However, please do not spit into my face when you give me the feedback, I took a shower before worship.
Ron and I learn something new about God each week. You are a great teacher and we are continuing to grow in our faith each week. And yes, it has and does make all the difference in our response to life. We are so happy that God called you and Rori to Kishwaukee. His timing is perfect!
Becky, thank you. We are grateful to be at Kishwaukee. My Dad sent me an email reminding me today that good preaching has a cumulative impact. He wrote “Don’t be discouraged. Your message is more effective when it seeps in, like a gentle rain. Heavy rains get talked about but wash away the topsoil.”