Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Evaluating Sermons Watch for More than the Splash

A resource for pastoral search committees and pulpit nominating committees
"Everybody thinks himself a judge of a sermon, but nine out of ten might as well pretend to weigh the moon." Charles Spurgeon

One of the major goals for my book, When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search, was to equip pastoral search committees to evaluate sermons. In that book, I made a comparison between how many search committees evaluate sermons and how I watch Olympic diving. I enjoy Olympic diving. I watch it. But at the end of the day, the only way I know how to evaluate it is to watch the splash. That's how many people evaluate sermons. They don't really know the components of a good sermon. They're just watching the splash.

 Most who read this won't be part of a church looking for a new preaching pastor. (If you are then this web site may help). However, if we are going to be Bereans (Acts 17:11-12) who humbly receive the word eagerly, then we all need to know what constitutes biblical preaching. We can boil it down to this:a good sermon should be "a biblical bullet fired at the life of the listener." 

Let me break that definition down:
  • A good sermon should be biblical. If it is truly biblical, then it will be Christ and Gospel centered, and flow authoritatively out of the Word of God. Entire books have been written on this point. We don't need cleverly devised arguments (2 Peter 1:16). We need a meal of the Word (Deut 8:3). When listening to the sermon, can you look down at the Words of Scripture and see that Truth is proclaimed?
  • A sermon should be a bullet. A sermon must have a clearly focused big idea. Too much of preaching is like a bad meeting that builds one rabbit trail on another rabbit trails and meanders along through the brush without any focus.
  • A sermon should be fired. Biblical preaching has unction. As Lloyd-Jones famously said, "preaching is logic on fire" - - Spirit empowered boldness. Did the sermon proclaim Christ and the Gospel with an anointed urgency?
  • A sermon should be fired at the life of the listener. Biblical truth is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. It isn't enough to simply preach esoteric doctrine. We need to show the implications of sound doctrine for life (Titus 2:1).
Styles should and will vary. We certainly don't want cookie-cutter sermons. But all preaching should be a biblical bullet fired at the life of the listener.

For more on these points, see an article I wrote for The Gospel Coalition, Churches Looking for a Pastor Should Watch More than the Splash.

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