Would it surprise you that after preaching over 4,000 sermons, I am still asking myself tough preaching questions on Monday morning? If you ever stop learning, you will stop growing, and so will your church family.
Here are six questions every preacher needs to ask on Monday.
1. Did my tone communicate love?
I grew up in the 1970s wondering why Baptist preachers were so angry.
Did you clearly communicate your love for your people as well as the passage? Did it sound like you were preaching to them or at them? Good pastors (and parents) will pay attention to both what they say and how they say it. We all intend to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), just don’t assume it came across that way.
2. Was the text used contextually?
This month I recommended Recapturing the Voice of God by Steven Smith. Dr. Smith shows us how to faithfully match the shape of your sermon with the shape of the text. Since not all texts are of the same genre, why should our sermons all have the same predictable structure?
Don’t just tell people about the Apostle Paul, also tell them about who the Philippians were and the culture they lived in. Your members will likely relate more to the members in Philippi than its pastor. Besides, “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) just feels right.
3. Did the sermon fulfill its promises?
I recently heard a young pastor plainly state in the introduction where he was going with his sermon…then he went there. He didn’t use the text as a jumping off point for a half-hour diatribe about social ills or whatever else paraded past his brain.
Regardless of your demographics, a large percentage of your audience will be made up of linear thinkers. Markers and clear transitions are huge to them, as well as any promises made about the direction during the introduction. Tell them where you are going, then go right there.
4. Were my ticks a distraction?
As painful as it is to listen to yourself preach, every month or so you should intentionally listen for typical silence fillers like “umm” or its awkward cousin “and-umm.” Some ticks graduate from distractions to annoyances (e.g. “Listen!”).
Also, listen for times when your voice changes pitch or pace. Variety in speed and tone will help the listeners to stay interested, or at least awake.
It takes hard work for both new and seasoned preachers to grow out of imbedded speaking habits. It is worth the effort so that people can focus on the message and not the messenger.
5. Were my illustrations helpful and interesting?
I suggest a good mix of personal and non-personal illustrations. Some pastors way overestimate their members’ interest in their family or hobbies, while others come across as stodgy history professors. This might be a good place to ask a trusted friend for feedback.
Most importantly, make sure they are connected to the text enough to hit their mark. A strong illustration that doesn’t connect with the text is actually a distraction to it.
6. Were the applications obvious?
By casually tagging applications on the end, we may be robbing our members of some much needed clarity and closure.
One preacher recently exhorted his people to, “Start leading with love,” yet came short of telling them how. Your members may agree with your principles, but if they forget the application, they will likely leave unchanged. Strong exhortation without clear application will lead to frustration, or worse – nothing at all.
Your preaching gift can be developed with prayer, practice, instruction, self-evaluation, and a good dose of humility. Never stop learning.