Preaching Articles

Preaching is bittersweet.  On the one hand we get the privilege or communicating the timeless truths of God.  We have the incredible privilege and high calling of representing God to our congregation.  But on the other hand we are vulnerable and exposed in our preaching.  Every week every pastor is put under the microscope and scrutinized.  Is he (or she) interesting, doctrinally sound, funny, long-winded, practical, deep, relevant?  And what makes this doubly challenging is that our people can go online every week and listen to the uber-gifted communicators.  
Every week as a pastor you feel the pressure to “bring it”.  I remember walking out on the platform to preach recently and a church staff member kiddingly said “just don’t stink”.  I know he was kidding, but that is a pressure I often feel when I preach.
What takes the scrutiny to another level of intensity is when the scrutiny turns into criticism. I know what it is like to have someone on their way out of church challenge what I just said in my sermon.  I know what it is like to open my e-mail and find a caustic note from a disgruntled church member.  It just comes with the territory.  But what do you do when someone criticizes your preaching?
Maybe there are a few pastors who are healthy enough to just blow it off.  But I think most of us have enough people-pleasing in us that the criticism grinds on us.
Someone once said that 
Compliments are written in the sand and 
criticism is written in wet cement
That statement captures really well how criticism has affected me through the years.  So, let me give you 4 steps you can take to handle criticism in a healthy way.
1. Listen for the nugget truth that you need to hear.
This assumes that you have the mindset of a learner.  No matter how long you’ve been preaching and leading, there are still things you can learn and areas where you need to grow.
Sometimes in a harsh e-mail or in the words of a frustrated congregant, there is something I need to hear.  So, rather than reacting or becoming defensive, I try to ask “what is it I need to hear in their criticism?”
But I would also say to you… “don’t own more than you need to”.  Listen for the nugget you might need to hear, but then discard the rest like last week’s trash.  I know, that’s way easier said than done.  The truth is, some people are just angry, crotchety, mean-spirited and don’t deserve to hijack my week.  
2. Remind yourself of your identity.
When I am emotionally healthy, I am anchored in the unconditional and unchanging love of God for me.  And I don’t find my worth in what someone thinks of last week’s sermon.
Criticism stirs our insecurities and brings to the surface feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  When someone criticizes me, it is like they hand me a magnifying glass with their criticism.  And, I take their criticism and blow it out of proportion.
The lie I have often believed is that my worth is tied to what people think of me or think of my preaching.  In those moments when I start down the path of self-condemnation, I try to be self-aware enough to change my self-talk.  I start reminding myself that I am a beloved child of God.  I remind myself that there is no condemnation in Christ.  I remind myself that God delights in me completely apart from my performance.  
3. Remember who you serve
I have found it very helpful to remind myself that my calling doesn’t come from that person and at the end of the day I don’t live to please them.
One day a journalist asked a very insightful question of a woman who played in the Boston Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.  The journalist asked “How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd and then the next morning, get a negative review in the newspaper?”  She said that over time she had learned not to listen to the applause or the critics.  She only looked to the conductor for his approval.  He was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.
So, when it comes to your preaching, don’t pay too much attention to the compliments or the complaints.  Just look to the conductor.
4.  Extend grace to yourself
I have found that many of us as pastors have two different theologies.  We have one for everybody else in the world and one for us.  All the time as pastors we extend grace to imperfect people.  Why not do the same for yourself?
So, even if their criticism was completely founded and your sermon was a complete dud (I’ve preached a few of those)… let me remind you, it’s just a sermon.  Your identity and your significance and the worth of your ministry are not tied to a 30 minute message.  
This week when you stand to preach, do so unapologetically.  Accurately teach the truth of Scripture. Preach with authority and boldness.  And, when you are done, keep your eyes on the conductor.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

Talk about it...

Juanita Thomas

commented on Feb 19, 2016

Good Stuff!

Rocky Racoma

commented on Feb 19, 2016

Thank you pastor Lance: I really needed this encouragement. Being a pastor for an Internationsl church at times I get people saying comments that make feel incompetent. I knoe I preach the truth according to Timothy and I know All my sermons are inspired by Him. God Bless,

Ronald Babel

commented on Feb 19, 2016

I also want to say thank you pastor Lance. It is very easy to get puffed up with compliments and that makes it even harder to handle critics. Thank you for reminding us to look up to the conductor. Blessings in your ministry. ,

Veron Cain

commented on Feb 19, 2016

Thank you Pastor Witt, I so needed this I'm a newly ordained pastor and just standing to face the congregation gets intimidating, the looking. Pastor thank you for your words of wisdom.

Tina Kay

commented on Feb 20, 2016

Thank you Pastor Lance. Will now start looking up to what the 'conductor' says. God bless.

Dave Tredway

commented on Feb 20, 2016


Lawrence Dejo Olesin

commented on Feb 20, 2016

Thank you very much Pastor, I am blessed by this message. God bless you, more anointing to you in Jesus name.

Cameron Madsen

commented on Feb 20, 2016

Thank you Lance for the post, loved all 4 points. Number three reminded me of the hymn, "I serve a risen Savour". Wonderful!

Rosemberg Nascimento

commented on Feb 20, 2016

Thanks pastor Lance! I was needing this encouragement. I am Brazilian pastor. Sometimes think in give up. Help me!

Isaias Da Silva Freitas

commented on Aug 12, 2019

Is that so, brother Nascimento? Perhaps I can help you for sure, FOR FREE. If you want, please, give me a call 9542548934

Ted Martens

commented on Feb 20, 2016

The criticisms of preaching today are probably more accurate than most would like to face.

Mike Brenneman

commented on Feb 21, 2016

Lance, you put preaching in its proper perspective. Its easy to lose sight and to despair. Yes, preaching the truth is highly valuable, but rarely will everyone always like our sermons or always be kind. May God open my heart to the criticisms I need to hear and help me to respond appropriately. Perhaps our responses give us an opportunity to glorify God by being humble and receptive to others thoughts. Blessings to you!

Nelly Taffur

commented on Feb 21, 2016

Muy Bueno! Realmente es bueno saber que muchos de nosotros pasamos por el sabor amargo del criticismo a la predicacion, pero los 4 puntos realmente me ayudaron a no dejarme llevar por lo que un congregante frustrado como comienza diciendo, me dane cuando le estamos sirviendo a Dios con todo nuestro corazon! Bendiciones pr. Lance

Robert Mcclinton

commented on Feb 22, 2016

This is great stuff, thank you for an encouraging word.

Steven Nash

commented on Feb 22, 2016

I recently have received some criticism from one individual about my preaching in general (which is even more painful than being guilty of an occasional poor message!). God gave me the grace to look for the "nugget of truth" in the criticism and I really needed to face how prideful I had become about my preaching. I needed to realize that I wasn't as good as I thought, which has really helped me to realize that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Steven Javed

commented on Feb 23, 2016

It is to hear complicated things is simple words, very helpful insight. Thanks.

Lonnie Bennett Jr.

commented on Feb 24, 2016

Good Stuff that we all as pro-claimers of the Gospel can use and grow with because we all have or will encounter this during our missions work, God bless you all.

Lonnie Bennett Jr.

commented on Feb 24, 2016

God Stuff each of us Preachers can use because either we have already experienced this situation or will encounter it, thanks and God Bless

E L Zacharias

commented on Jun 25, 2018

Excellent advice, esp about being a "healthy preacher." That means you are confident in your faith and in your message. We all struggle with content and presentation. (It is the hardest work of all!) How very important to know that Jesus forgives you YOUR OWN sins and shortcomings, as mentioned; lay hold of the truth of the comment and work to improve. But do not allow satan to destroy you with self-doubt. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" may have been a chronic complainer; if that is your "thorn" remember that God can (and does) give you strength in that weakness. Don't let the mean people live in your head. Remember the many others who love your work and depend on you. Blessings!

Wole Alaran

commented on Jun 26, 2018

Thanks a lot Pastor. You have truly encouraged my spirit this morning. God bless you for this great inspiration! Thanks once again!

Richard Amoo-Gyamfi

commented on Jun 26, 2018

Comparisons and critics are high when different pastors are allowed to Minister in the same church. That is where the attention of looking up to the conductor becomes vital. And not to relegate our selves into competition. Pastor Lance advices to be a healthy preacher.

Sidney Robles

commented on Jun 27, 2018

Thank You pastor, thank you so múch! this has been up lifting ti my life. May The Lord Bless You Always!.

Bartolome Saplor

commented on Jul 1, 2018

Thank you Pastor Lance. It’s true. God bless

Ruben M Ortega

commented on Jul 3, 2018

Dear friend, boy was your article timely. Thank you for your insight and looking out for us who serve alongside you. I’m looking forward to your next article. Bendiciones, Ruben

Greggory Lanzen

commented on Aug 12, 2019

Thanks for the encouraging, accurate and helpful words Pastor Lance. Years ago I received a particularly critical letter that really upset me. So I sent a copy to a very highly respected older pastor I know. He called me a few days later and I asked him, 'What do you think?' His reply stunned me initially. He said, "Is any of it true?" He then quickly said basically what you wrote; look for the truth in the letter (he said most criticism has a bit of truth in it) and use it to grow my ministry, then trash the rest. I've ministered by that counsel for many years now and it has helped me immensely. Thanks again for sharing your helpful counsel.

Floyd Knight

commented on Aug 12, 2019

I agree with all of the points you have made. But there is another side. It has to do with continuing education or self-directed growth in the context of an appropriate community of individuals who know the difference between responding to the Spirit prompting and the human dimension of communication. We learned how to communicate and grow in our preaching and teaching skills in part, by structured feedback from mentors and peer-classmates. After we leave seminary and have preached for a while we tend to reject or at least do without structural feedback from our peers and mentors--those who know our hearts, our abilities, our calling, and the skills needed for crafting a sermon. Where we once used a rubric, score card, or checklist and peer feedback for evaluating our sermons (as well as our CPE, pastoral counseling, pastoral arts, and/or community engagement experiences in seminary, in our MTS, and in doctoral programs, we now forgo any structural and meaningful feedback at all. It's either our own subjective assessment or the anecdotal assessment of lay persons who have never seen a sermon rubric or pastoral assessment or participated in one. I am guilty of the same and was looking for a solution for pastoral accountability beyond a pastor parish committee that are often filled with lay persons who give us their subjective , touchy-feelly, assessment (good or bad). Such committee are often set up to assess informally the communication and relational closeness of the congregation and the pastor. They are created or formed for objective and subjective structural feedback on whether the purpose and intent of the preacher matched the results intended with the most appropriate means from both a Spiritual, educational, and rhetorical perspective. I guess we could use what we had in seminary or what we have in spiritual discipline or celebrate recovery growth groups, but I really didn't want to "reinvent the wheel." I wanted to find out what works and if others had any experience with some type of structured, pastoral, accountability programs on a weekly or monthly basis. (I'm excluding large church associates. Unless your associate are someone like Dr. Gary Chapman or lay leaders in your church like Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend or you have a seminary or Bible college professor in your congregation who can act as a peer or mentor, the power dynamics regarding the Sr Pastor and associates maked this too dicey for associates to offer in depth criticism.)

Francis Forbes

commented on Aug 13, 2019

very helpful.

Sidney Robles

commented on Aug 13, 2019

Thank you pastor!.. just keep the good work, and thank you, your words are a big blessing to my life. I am a pastor and know and feel the pressure of the ministry. But thanks God por the Holy Ghost that's help us in every thing.

Monty Townson

commented on Jan 9, 2021

Thank you Pastor for the insight and straight talk about some of the real struggles which we face as pastors and preachers of the word of God - as men of God. It reminds me of the time Joseph confronts and comforts His Brothers in Genesis 50:20 KJV But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. In order for me to stand as a man of God I had to learn to crawl first. Broken, I looked to the cross and God brought healing. Humbled, God lifted me up to serve Him. A new life and a new direction. I never forget that, especially when I am being critiqued or criticized. Paul said “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1Co 15:10 NIV) God’s grace empowered him to fully do God’s will, and us also. So, as I prepare for tomorrows sermon I am encouraged by your writings, to be open and honest with myself that without Christ I can do nothing and I am nothing, but also it is Christ in me that makes the difference, and so I press on despite hard and harsh words that sometimes come from others who may not realize how words can make or break a person. I strive to always learn, and grow, to be the best that I can be, but also trust that God can and will use me, if I get myself out of the way long enough, and it is Him I strive to please. Thanks again for allowing God to use you as an encourager to all who read this article. Blessings Pastor Monty

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