We will be offering this booklet, “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”, shortly as a downloadable pdf. We’ve covered a number of issues in preaching already: serious study of the Word, developing clear outlines, the pros and cons of expository versus topical sermons, the need for a good introduction, the place and value of illustrations, why we need vocal variety in our preaching, the use of technology, how gestures help us communicate, and the challenge to listen to and watch good preachers. Whew! Here’s our last step:
“What do you mean — I ‘should do something with my hair’?!!”
STEP TEN: GET EVALUATED!
I know this is a touchy area. None of us like to be critiqued. To us our sermon is like a mother’s brand-new baby. No one would say to her, “Her nose is kind of big, isn’t it?” or “My, he doesn’t look like his daddy at all, does he?”
But evaluation is an important step to getting better as a preacher. I’ve heard too many stories of churches that were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their pastor’s preaching. Months and maybe years went by, with the dissatisfaction growing. Suddenly, and without much of a warning, a congregational meeting from hell takes place, and the preacher is “let go.” No one stepped in months before to help the preacher improve his preaching. None of the elders suggested (or required) that he attend a preaching renewal seminar. Nobody loved him enough to assist him in seeing his weak areas and working on them. And now he is out of a job, discarded by the family of God who refused to work with him.
My wife Linda has been an enormous help to me in my preaching. She lets me know when I’ve tried to do too much, when I should have used better illustrations, where I could have employed better volume variety. But she loves me, and I greatly value her opinion.
We’re both converts of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. Her love language (how she shows love) is giving. My love language (how I like to be shown love) is words of encouragement. After I’ve preached my heart out in a sermon, I’ll ask my wife after the service, “How did I do?” She’ll say “Fine.” That’s it. One word. But then the next day she’ll buy me a pair of socks.
Who is speaking words of encouragement to you? Who’s buying you socks? We need those who love us to tell us the truth about our preaching.
Apart from a loving spouse, be bold and give out a short sermon evaluation form (found at the end of this booklet) to several in the congregation whose opinion you value. Tell them you will love them even if they are brutally honest. And keep your word!
Evaluate yourself! Ah, technology! Unless we want to live in the land of denial, there is no excuse not to listen to or even watch our own sermons. You can record your own preaching with a small recorder, your iPhone, or your church’s sound system.
Where I am serving now as an interim teaching pastor, the church live streams their Sunday morning service, then archives the services on their website. It’s not a perfect system, but the next day I can watch my sermon. I can see how I moved, where my gestures might improve, what my PowerPoint slides (Keynote, actually. I’m a Mac snob) looked like, etc.
If you don’t want to listen to or watch your sermons, get over it. There’s a lot more at stake than your pride. Carefully critiquing yourself can be invaluable if you want to get better.
You might consider using one of the sermon evaluation forms on yourself. Ask yourself questions like:
Did I start well? How effective was my introduction?
Did I drive the congregation’s eyes to the biblical text?
Where did I punch with my voice? How could my vocal variety improve? Did I sound like a funeral director?
What illustrations did I use? Were any of them not about my family? (Be careful in using family illustrations. You have to live with those people).
Was my sermon easy to follow? Did my points logically follow one another?
Get over your pride. And evaluate yourself. Thank the Lord for the good elements of your preaching. And ask Him to help you in those weak areas.
There is one more decision you can make in having your sermon evaluated. Let me help you! Yes, I will listen to (or preferably watch) your sermon and give you my best feedback. No charge. Free.
Did you read those last two sentences? Pick the sermon you want evaluated and get it to me. You can either send me a dvd or upload your sermon to DropBox and send me the link to it.
The upside of my offer is that I won’t give my report to your elders or your church. This is between you and me. And God. The downside of my offer is I will be blatantly honest with you and provide my best feedback. Your mother cares about your feelings. Me? Not so much.
You can send your dvd to my home address: Dr. Larry Dixon 117 Norse Way Columbia, SC 29229. If you upload your sermon to DropBox, you can email me the link at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to know if any of these steps have been helpful to you. Please feel free to jot a comment below. Blessings on you. And your preaching!