June 16, 2016

The good people sitting in the pews don’t want you to preach good sermons

I was excited to hear that AMC was creating a TV series of Preacher. Preacher, the comic book series, is a graphic and crazy story about a small town Texas preacher. The show has started out distinctly different than the comic book. Nonetheless, it's funny and interesting and dark. But it got me thinking about preaching. In the first episode, the main character absolutely bombs a sermon. His head and heart are conflicted about what to say. His notes are terrible. The congregation is just waiting for the pain to be over.

I recall feeling like that so many times.

But here's the thing: good sermons have little to do with what the congregation was hoping for.

Preachers, you won’t learn much about whether or not you met expectations by shaking hands with folks following the service. Not that you shouldn't be social and shake hands with folks. You should! But it’s almost universal that folks will say, “Nice sermon.” This tells you nothing about whether or not you actually delivered the talk you were supposed to.

I'd much prefer feedback a week or later. That way I know I said something worth holding on to.

Some of the good people sitting in the pews don’t want you to preach good sermons. They want you to keep it inoffensive, impersonal and forgettable. But what they want is the complete opposite of of what you should deliver.

As a side note, this expectation is certainly different than the hopes of those that are not in the pews, along with those that are no longer in the pews.

Good sermons are going to make someone uncomfortable. Good sermons will impress something upon people personally–whether emotionally or intellectually.

Don’t try to meet the expectations of the crowd. Just do better than you did last time.

Learn the methods of good communicators, not just other preachers. Good communicators and preachers are not always the same thing. There's a reason why TED talks have become so popular. They stick with you. They unsettle you. You walk away a little different.

The folks in the pews may not always want that but they know they need that.