Sermon Evaluation Redux

I suggested here a few weeks ago that expositors should have some sort of mechanism in place whereby they are receiving regular feedback on their sermons. This feedback should be a balance between correction and encouragement. There is no one method of attaining this so I simply gave a few suggestions (some of which I’ve used and some remain untested). A few responses both on the blog and through private conversation questioned if such a thing is possible or beneficial. Suffice to say, if the last time you received constructive feedback was in a seminary classroom then you might be overdue. How about a few more examples?

Mark Dever regularly sits down with his army of interns to go over the message soon after it is preached. I’m sure this helps the preacher know what is affective and what is not. However, this also provides a teaching lab whereby young guys can see how a sermon is constructed and subsequently preached.

Josh Harris has recently confessed
that he emails his notes on Saturday to C. J. Mahaney and Bob Kauflin so they can give editorial feedback. Harris writes,

Two weeks ago, CJ took a full hour late Saturday to help me rework my message on 1 Cor. 7:1-7. His help was very important in striking the right tone and he crafted the closing comments that drew people’s attention to the “shadow of the cross” that fell across the passage. Bob consistently and speedily returns my manuscript with suggested edits that always help it be tighter and sharper. Many times he gives me better words in sections.

I’m aware that there are some negatives that could be raised against what I’m saying here. No pastor in his right mind would want to invite unfettered criticism from folks who know little of what they’re talking about. I’m not asking for Miss. Suzy Pew-warmer to let me know if I got the sense of the genitive correct or not. I’m also not suggesting that you mail your notes to your enemies. I’m arguing, that at a basic level we should have at least one or two men who love us enough to help us grow and flourish in the preaching ministry that Christ has called us to. However be warned because asking for sermon evaluation also highlights other issues in pastoral ministry. What sort of leaders have you surrounded yourself with? Have you created a ministry where you are “indispensable” or worse “unapproachable”? Were it not for key men along the way of my ministerial development I would have burned-out long ago and my sermons might have become nothing more than polished artifacts in the museum of washed-up preachers. By God’s grace through a few helpful brothers I can say with the Apostle, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

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2 responses to this post.

  1. You are right on track. As the only pastor (no elders yet, only deacons that know how to pass out bread and juice for communion) of a small rural church I never know how the preaching is going. This is my first pulpit and with no seminary preaching class I am left hanging. I am trying to put together a pastoral council with a few godly men in the church and meet often to grow and discuss but also give me feedback on the teaching and preaching. In the setting I am in, all I get is “good sermon brother Jason”. While some probably mean it, I also get that response from the 80 year old fellow who was asleep the whole time.

    We all need evaluation in our ministry to make sure we have not drifted off or we have not stopped growing and feeding the church. I hear some seasoned pastors of many years preaching the same topic over and over because they are comfortable with it but they are not growing and the people are not growing.

    We always need other godly people in our lives who are not scared to tell us “how it is”.

  2. A year or so ago a book came out called the “Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching.” I think that is a great title because preaching is both an art and a craft. The craft part is pretty easy to be evaluated on. If you are a craftsman building a brick wall, it is easy to see whether the wall is straight and solid. The thing that I have difficulty with is being evaluated on the artistic side of things. Any time you do anything creative or artistic, you are being vulnerable. Because of this vulnerability factor, the evaluation process must be a safe process.

    We are thinking through all of this stuff right now at my church. We are trying to put together a system for evaluating the preaching. I know that evaluation is important, but it is equally important that we protect the pastors. They don’t need to be harassed by their enemies through an evaluation form. The people that we will let evaluate the preaching will be trusted members of our teaching team or people with whom we have shared the vision of what evaluation is all about. It is supposed to be a safe process. Any criticism much be constructive. The evaluator should be prayerfully critiquing the message.

    Another thing to note is how important it is for us to evaluate ourselves after we preach (as painful as that is!). I know I fall short in this area. It is easier to not evaluate yourself. I think it may be more helpful to listen to your own preaching than it is to see what others though about it. Probably the most powerful thing that outside evaluators will do for us is uncovering any “blind spots” that we may have when it comes to preaching – things that we wouldn’t see of hear even if we did evaluate ourselves.

    I enjoy your blog,
    Donnie Johnson

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