An Evaluation of Sermon Prep and Preaching

A desire for growth demands a desire for feedback. Whether you’ve preached five sermons or five hundred sermons, the Lord continues to grow us. And this sphere of growth happens both on the front end of preparation as well as on the back end of evaluation. The sermon doesn’t end when you say “Amen.” We all know that, right? The Lord works by his Spirit to help the flock apply the sermon. And the Spirit and his people help us evaluate the sermon. Don’t worry, you’re not in a preaching class and getting an official number grade. But feedback fuels growth. And growth reflects glory. So in order to faithfully and carefully evaluate a sermon, we want consider both some common errors that preachers typically make as well as what components are essential for a great sermon.

Common Errors in Preaching

That moment when you spouse points out how you always use a certain phrase or when a fellow pastor tells you what your “filler” words are in your preaching – they are our habits of safety, and yet some habits need to broken while other habits need to be established.

Preachers aren’t perfect. And sermons aren’t spotless. Thus, we want to consider the follow common errors often made in preaching. And yes, other pastors and we too often make these. Of course, there’s grace for our mishaps, but let’s grow in light of these common errors:

  • Not clear. Preachers often try to say too much. I often struggle with this. An excess of material leads to an absence of clarity. You can’t say everything every week. So what can you say? And say that – clearly.
  • Not expository. The Word of God is sufficient, authoritative, and inerrant. We are not. And thus, we go to text, and let the text preach. Stay in the text and exegete the Scriptures.
  • Not contextual. Know your context, and preach to your context. Many pastors do not know their flock well, and thus do not preach a sermon that’s contextualized for their people. A sermon preached in Dallas, Texas should sound different that a sermon preached in rural Kansas or on the California coast.
  • Not Gospel-centered. Always get to the gospel of the Kingdom. Keep the gospel at the core of every sermon. I can’t emphasize and encourage this enough. Every sermon is to be a gospel sermon.

 

Central Components for a Great Sermon

We’ve all said it to our pastor (or maybe to ourselves if we are honest) – “that was a great sermon. You (or I) nailed it.” Now, if you’re a pastor, you might often feel a bit awkward with knowing how best to respond to this feedback. And you might also be curious on why your member gave you such encouraging words, maybe to affirm your calling but perhaps to acknowledge some specific strengths in your sermon. In light of perhaps the often tossed around phrase “that was a great sermon!” in the lobby after service, what actually comprises a great sermon?

Let’s consider the following the components of a great sermon. No, this list isn’t exhaustive, but I do hope it exhorts you for “great sermons.”

  • Gospel-centrality. Get to King Jesus every single time. Whether you’re preaching in 1 Kings or 2 Peter, preach the person and work of Christ Jesus in every single sermon.
  • Expositional. Stay in the text and when you come up, get back in the text quickly. Read the Bible and read from the Bible. Don’t be make assumptions of the flock knowing the Bible. They probably don’t.
  • Contextual. Know not only the text but know your people. Use illustrations that connect with your people. Preach with them in mind, their sufferings, their struggles, their joys, their gifts.
  • Communal. Call the listeners to the local church.  Call them to mission. Call them to not just be hearers but also doers (James 1:22). My husband (and favorite preacher) often points out that most of the commands in the New Testament are in the second person plural – “you all.” We are called to grow together and not alone.
  • Delivery. Prepare a clear sermon. Transitions demand attention. They are are like a crisp new uniform for the upcoming season. Use them. End your sermon strong. Land the plane, and when you land it, say “amen” and get off the stage. Practice your sermon. Color-code your notes. Do whatever you need to set yourself up for a “W.”
  • Disposition. You are a preacher, and you are imperfect. Your sermon won’t be spotless. But while you aren’t perfect, preach out of a disposition of progression and pruning – the Lord is working in you, through you, and always in spite of you. Preach humbly and hopeful. A better day is coming.

 

Careful Evaluation of a Sermon

Friends, we all want to grow in preparing and delivering great sermons. And a desire to grow in this way demands a desire for feedback. Pursue others for feedback after you preach a sermon. Talk with your spouse, other pastors, the flock. Send your sermon to other mentors, pastors, friends. Be willing to receive feedback, both positive and negative. Be intentional to ask helpful question, like the following:

  1. Was it clear? Evaluate the transitions, main points, and illustrations. What was unclear about the sermon?
  2. Was it compelling? Evaluate if there was a call to obedience and a to call to respond. How is your flock applying the sermon this week? What wasn’t compelling about the sermon?
  3. Was it communal?  Evaluate the presence of a call to community, to be known, to belong in the body of Christ. Or was the sermon individualistic and if so, how so?
  4. Was it convicting? Evaluate the call to repentance and hope in the Gospel. Was there a call to holiness? How was the flock compelled to deeper devotion and greater affection for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters, we are meant to be students of the Scriptures and servants of our Savior. We’re called to preach the Word with both great humility and great hope. Consider these common errors and some central components of a great sermon the next time you prepare to preach. And use these questions, and invite others to do so also, to evaluate your sermon. May the Lord help us, grow us, and use us to be faithful preachers of the Word. May our sermons be clear, compelling, communal, and convicting for the good of the church and the glory of our God. Friends, Sunday is coming. Your next opportunity to preach will be here before you know it. Entrust yourself and your sermon to our good and faithful Shepherd.

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