I have heard a lot of bad sermons in my life. Also, I have preached a lot of bad sermons in my life. One of the worst experiences I know is listening to myself preach a bad sermon. Cursed recording technology.
When it comes to hearing bad sermons, I know I am not alone. Every now and then we’ll hear a home run, but frequently we hear sermons that go foul.
What is one to do when they hear a bad sermon?
Tony Reinke recently answered that very question. In his piece he offers six reminders that I found to be very helpful for myself as a sermon listener and very hopeful as a sermon preacher. Keeping these in mind will benefit our pastors and congregations greatly.
1) Our pastor is a weak and sinful man, and he is quite likely aware of this without our help.
2) Our pastor carries a heavy burden for the flock, and there is nothing he wants more than to serve the souls in his church (including you), and he knows he falls short in this aim over and over.
3) Our pastor benefits from our realistic expectations on Sunday morning. We should neither puff him up as a celebrity and expect too much, nor diminish him and his gifts and expect too little.
4) Our pastor’s sermons will never compete with the thrill of our Netflix binge and our unguarded and abused affections come Sunday morning.
5) Our pastor needs our earnest attention and eager hearts on Sunday. How can we be surprised that we gain so little, when our hearts arrive at church so dull and easily distracted?
6) Our pastor must have our prayers. We should appear at church having already prayed for God to bless the sermon and affect hearts with the gospel.
A note may help here. This isn’t to say that one isn’t to be concerned about or do anything about continual lack in the pulpit. Preaching is important and we should all work to help our pastors grow. But these reminders should help to shape how we go about helping the preaching ministry of our church. Instead of coming at our pastors with cold-blooded, compassionate-less critique, I believe these reminders will help us approach them with more understanding, gentleness, and love.
As Reinke reminds us:
Sermon duds are inevitable, but they are useful to expose both the needs of our pastors and the needs of our own hearts, too. May we never stop praying for our pastor, as he earnestly labors in prayer and in preaching for us.
I encourage you to read Reinke’s whole post here.