Each week I spend between 5 and 10 hours preparing my sermon. On Sunday I deliver that sermon two times, once at 9am and once at 11. After each service a handful of people come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they appreciate my words. Most of the time they say, “good sermon” or “good word.” It makes me feel good to hear them say that. I’m not complaining about that.
A lot of times I will respond by asking, “what did you like about it?” or “what stood out to you?” Almost always they have no response. Sometimes they stammer and try to come up with something. They might say “well, it was funny” or “it was just good.” Rarely do they have compelling or helpful feedback. This usually leaves me feeling one of two ways. Either my sermons are just ear candy for people or, they don’t know what makes a sermon good.
If your pastor is like me, he/she need the encouragement. But if you want to give meaningful feedback I suggest you give better reasons for liking the sermon. Here are four principles to guide you.
The Sermon Was Biblical
Many young preachers today rarely crack a Bible when they preach. Or, if they do, they bounce around the text and backup their points. They may use a verse from the gospels, one from the Psalms, and finish up with something from the Epistles. If your pastor preaches from a text and allows the text to shape his/her sermon then you should explain why that is a good thing and how much it means to you. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
The Sermon Was Relatable
Expository preaching is good. But it’s also good to help a congregation find application points along the way. I call this “putting handles” on a sermon. A great sermon will help a person walk out the door and feel hope. This happens when pastor takes the time to find ways to challenge and encourage the listener. So if your pastor was able to build a bridge between the text and your life, make sure to tell them that you appreciate it. This is exactly what the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 3:8-9 when he said, “this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”
The Sermon Was Short
I’ll just say it: we pastors love the sound of our own voices. It’s true. When I was a young preacher starting out I had a tendency to allow my sermons to reach 45 minutes or more. In my opinion this is longer than any sermon needs to be. There are no Biblical rules for how long a sermon should be. Paul preached a sermon that was so long a young man fell asleep–then out of a window! Modern audience get their information in small bites. Most people have trouble paying attention for more than 30 minutes. The reason why a lot of sermons are too long has nothing to do with good content. Sermons are too long due to a lack of preparation. A seasoned preacher will trim unnecessary parts from the sermon in order to deliver a well-crafted message that gets to the point quickly. Moses asked God to “teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). If that is true of our days it is imperative of our minutes. If you appreciate a well-timed Biblical sermon tell your pastor, “thank you.”
The Sermon Was Convicting
People need to be challenged by a sermon – they like to be “beaten up” a little by the text. This is exactly what James had in mind when he described the Bible being like a mirror (James 1:23). A good teacher will hold the mirror of the scriptures up to the congregation. Many times that means he/she might have to bruise some egos and step on a few toes. If you feel convicted during a sermon let the Pastor know. It means that their teaching was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Your pastor appreciates the feedback – both good and bad. Make sure your feedback is specific. That way your pastor will be able to get a sense of how to stay on track from week to week.