Preaching Articles

Every preacher has preached a bad sermon. If you think you haven’t, then you probably have preached a bunch of bad sermons. It will happen to all of us. Sometimes it won’t just be bad, but a disaster! When a sermon doesn’t go well, most of us get very discouraged and if the despair is great enough, it might cause us to question whether we should continue to preach at all. I bet no one can top the disaster of John Newton’s first sermon as he described it to a friend in a letter he wrote the next day:

I set off tolerably well though with no small fear and trembling. … Before I had spoken 10 minutes I was stopped like Hannibal upon the Alps. My ideas forsook me; darkness and confusion filled up their place. I stood on a precipice and could not advance a step forward. I stared at the people and they at me. Not a word more could I speak but was forced to come down and leave the people, some smiling, some weeping. My pride and self-sufficiency were solely mortified.

Imagine if John Newton, one of the most celebrated pastors, preachers, hymn composers and letter writers in the last 400 years, took that one bad sermon as affirmation that he should not preach? How tragic would that have been? Most of our first sermons were bad, and most pastors “lay eggs” even after years of preaching. Take heart, for our Sovereign God doesn’t use perfect preachers and sermons. God uses imperfect, broken jars of clay to proclaim his perfect word, and the Spirit uniquely works through this design.

So, if you preached a bad sermon recently, welcome to the club. God’s mercies are new every morning, and that includes our preaching ministry. Embrace your brokenness and need to grow. Trust you have not ruined your church because of one bad sermon (or several for that matter). Allow the grace of God in Christ to pick you back up and help you saddle up for next Sunday. God used John Newton in amazing ways despite this terrible experience, and he will continue to use you in your ministry.

If you are just testing your gifts to preach, embrace any opportunity you get to preach and listen to the feedback of others. Even if it is hard to hear, God will use that to help you grow. Newton didn’t allow a really bad sermon to cause him to give up. Nor should you.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children—son Samuel and daughters Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for 15 years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University, receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Joe Mckeever

commented on Aug 17, 2015

Yep. Been there, done that. Good.

Kevin Mcdonald

commented on Aug 17, 2015

Not if, but when. Even preachers need to find grace in preaching.

Patrice Marker-Zahler

commented on Aug 17, 2015

My 16 year old son preached his first sermon yesterday. As far as sermons go it was ok, there was nothing wrong with his theology. His delivery is going to take some work, but his only 16 and his has a long time to practice. I thank God he knows what he is called to do and is not afraid to get and do it, even before he has had any formal schooling and classes on preaching technique.

David Beirne

commented on Aug 17, 2015

Just one bad one??

David Johnson

commented on Aug 17, 2015

Thanks and amen !!

Ronald E. Vanauken

commented on May 23, 2019

Ok, so what constitutes a "bad sermon?" What are the criteria for evaluation? Who gets to decide. the preacher, the congregation, the Lord? If it is me, well, I am always self-critical . . . hopefully in a holy way. If it is the listeners, then most of the prophets could be said to have had a consistent stream of baddies as they were regularly ignored or threatened with their life. If it is the Lord, well, that's quite another matter. I recall one message where, 5 minutes into it I found myself praying, "Lord, help me to bring this to a quick conclusion and put us all out of our misery." Needless to say that it came as a shock when, following the service, a number of people commented on how meaningful it had been to them. My experience of some 45 year of ministry is that I may think I know what's going on, the congregation may think it knows what's going on; but it's only the Lord who really knows what's going on. :)

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