The preaching of a sermon is an exhilarating and maddening process. After hours of study and prayer, you have what feels to be a few short moments to deliver eternal truths in contemporary language to your friends who face a world set against everything you are teaching them. Generally, each week, I try to listen to my sermon in order to prayerfully learn how I can more effectively deliver my next message. But I have learned that the review must not become an exercise in public speaking skills. As pastors, we are called to a higher task than to simply speak convincingly. Our work is similar to the men in Nehemiah 8:7. As Ezra read the Law, they moved among the people to help the people to understand the Law’s implications in their lives.
Here are five questions that will help us evaluate our sermons each week.
1. Did it make God the hero? We should be able to identify the pivot point on which the message hangs. It should be God, along with His self-revelation, glory, and redemptive purposes. If we placed people, good character, or even the church as the proverbial hero of the story, then we missed the mark.
2. Was it a clear exposition of the Scriptures? We need to ensure that we are exposing the truth of the text and not using it to make our own points. It is the old “preacher joke,” but too many of us have come up with a great point and then find a passage to preach it. We should be able to clearly hear the heart of a text in our message.
3. Did I allow the wisdom of God to outshine my witty ideas? In other words… Did I get in the way? We can get in the way by forcing points that are made into an acrostic, alliterate, or needlessly rhyme. It is not that we should throw out mnemonics that help people remember the point but they should not become the point. We should be certain that people are struck by the greatness of God and not the cleverness of the preacher.
4. Was there a clear call to make a decision? However you ask people to respond in your worship gatherings, the message should give people a reason to do so. Each time we meet with the text, we will be confronted by God’s holiness and the need for it to be applied to our lives. Each time the Word is proclaimed, it is a blessing to be convicted and comforted by it. We must also direct people how to respond to God through it.
5. Did I apply the truth to myself first? Each time I deliver a sermon, it is the opportunity for God to work over my own life first so that I will be ready to deliver the truth from a place of transformation. If you have not, people will know it and are tempted to discard anything you say. If the sermon had no application for you, then you will be hard pressed to apply it to others.
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Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. He earned a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a doctor of ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as teaching pastor for the The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, Tennessee.
His works include Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. He is also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, he has written the small-group studies Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.