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preaching article The Criticism I Hated—but Made Me a Better Preacher

The Criticism I Hated—but Made Me a Better Preacher

based on 3 ratings
Jun 15, 2015

Many times we read the experts when it comes to sermon crafting and sermon delivery, but sometimes I feel we need to take a step back and listen to the people who hear us week in and week out.

As a young preacher, I hear advice all the time: “Well, just do this or that, make sure you do this, make sure you do that.”

I know none of us appreciate unsolicited, mean-spirited criticism, but we do need to hear people out.

I have come across a few principles, not from experts of communication or preaching, but just people who listen to me week in and week out that I want to share with you.

1. “Keep it Short.”

This is an unpopular point with many preachers. We like to justify long sermons by saying, “Well, we keep them engaged," or "They should stay interested in God’s word.” The fact is long sermon times push the limits of adult attentions; in turn they are not as effective as they could be. Now I will not say “so and so  length is too long, so keep it under this time frame,” but we should be careful as we craft messages to be as clear as possible. If it can be said in 100 words, why go on for 1000?

2. “Tell More Jokes.”

I can tell you, when someone told me this, I was pretty irritated. I mean, I spend 15 hours crafting a message for them, and it was full of stories and relevant illustrations. I even generated a few laughs from the audience. But then someone told me, “Hey, good message, but you should tell more jokes." I might not completely agree with filling a message with jokes, but the principle here is to be more relatable, and humor is one way to that end.

3. “Give Me More of the Bible.”

When I am told this, I am usually floored. I mean, I take the time to plan out a series based on a Scripture or a set of Scriptures. I take the time to find relevant passages for that week’s message, and then someone says, “Hey, you needed more Scripture," or "You should have used this passage.” The principle here is that people thirst for God’s word, so give it to them. Do not shy away from the Bible to try to be relevant or whatever. ‘

These three things have all been said to me by well-meaning hearers of my sermons, and each one has a good, helpful underlying principle beneath it.

Will you learn from your people, as well?

Joe Hoagland is the preaching pastor at Pleasant View Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna, and together they have a spoiled little Chihuahua-Cocker Spaniel puppy named Yoda. Joe loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word. You can oftentimes find Joe hiking, camping, writing or enjoying technology (Android over iOS, Windows over OS X).

Talk about it...

Karl Frank avatar
Karl Frank
0 days ago
I guess the BIGGEST comment that I am going to make references number 2 . Have you EVER heard The Johnny Carson Late Night Show read a Bible passage or passages and THEN preach a sermon ? Granted, there MAY occasionally be a time for humor, BUT NOT ever sermon . How many JOKES did J-sus share ?
Mark Nielson avatar
Mark Nielson
0 days ago
I think Jesus had a sense of humor! One example that comes to mind is when He talked about trying to take the speck out of your neighbors eye when you have a log in your own. I would think that drew some chuckles at least!
Bryan Thompson avatar
Bryan Thompson
0 days ago
Exactly. It should be relivant and appropriate, but saying people should not laugh during a sermon is like saying we should not cry or feel or be otherwise emotionally engaged. God wants to engage our hearts, not just the intellect.
S Rouse avatar
S Rouse
0 days ago
Scripture is appropriate for all subjects, humor is not.
Rocky Racoma avatar
Rocky Racoma
0 days ago
I believe an illustration or story to emphasize a point in your sermon is good, but too many jokes, illustrations or stories could drown out the real purpose of the sermon. God had pass a HIS word for you to pass to the people.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.