Judging how to react to responses one gets to sermons is incredibly hard. From the hate mail (like the one I got earlier in my years at TCC: “That was the sorriest excuse for a sermon and you are the sorriest excuse for a preacher I have ever seen!” to “I like your preaching SOOOOO much better than…[Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, John Macarthur, the apostle Paul, you fill in the blank]. the reality is usually somewhere in the middle.
But how do you judge? I used to distribute a sermon evaluation form. And I may do it again. It might even be helpful to put that form here on the blog. We’ll see. (Later edit–I have decided to do so. Look for it.
But HOW DO YOU JUDGE? It would be nice to say…”It’s not our job. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.” Yes…but. It IS the job of the HS. But we have some responsibility as well. Another complicating factor is people’s response. One dare not judge the effectiveness of a sermon by the people’s response. They killed the prophets, Noah was totally rejected, they beheaded John the Baptist and Jesus ended up on a cross. And yet people flocked and even stayed up all night to hear the apostle Paul.
Do we judge by the number of people coming to Christ? Nice, but that is not the point of every sermon. Do we judge by whether or not our elders or staff think we are doing a good job? That borders on man-pleasing. Do I judge by what my spouse thinks? That is sometimes a better criterion than others, but not every sermon hits every person.
An evaluation form is helpful…maybe better than any of the above. But you have to be careful not to let one bad apple ruin how you look at the entirety. I used to look through each of the evaluation sheets individually. But I get my feelings hurt too easily. (Ryan–my son–says I have a bit of a persecution complex. Probably some truth in that). And so what I eventually went to doing was asking my secretarial staff to summarize a group of evaluation forms. That provides some balance. The highs are not so high and the lows are not as low, but it does still enable me to get solid feedback.
I don’t know that I can envision the prophet Elijah asking Ahab & Jezebel to fill out sermon evaluation forms. But that is not the context in which I serve and I am not Elijah.
What tools or techniques have you found helpful?