Little Notes…

August 25, 2009

Have you ever received unrestrained criticism about one of your sermons? Unpacking boxes in my new study today, I came across an old note that was thrust into my hand a few years ago after preaching.  Part of it read…

“Over long, wandering and utterly impossible to remember ‘the points’. Be clear about what you want to say. Write it out and then spend more time on the editing.”


What’s the most hard-hitting criticism that’s come your way?


  1. I wish it had ‘come my way’ but the hard stuff is always relayed through a third party.

    The worst one was ‘there was nothing of Jesus in ther sermon’.

    Which was strange, seeing as the message was ABOUT Jesus, from Mark’s gospel.

  2. This wasn’t a direct criticism but once I was preaching for a congregation that was about to close the doors and was looking for a regular pastor. After preaching there a few months I closed the service by inviting all who would like to offer prayers for the congregation’s future to do so. An old lady stood up and prayed that the Lord would send them a GOOD preacher. The emphasis placed on good seemed to be a comment about what they had been hearing during my interim.

  3. After a Sunday evening service in the first church I was a pastor, my wife said to me, “You’re not as arrogant as you used to be in seminary.” Now, that may sound like an encouraging word, and it was somewhat (“You are less arrogant now”). But there was also a loving criticism: “You’re still a bit arrogant when you preach.” That was one of the most loving, helpful, and humbling critiques I have ever received.

  4. …and if only that person truly knew how much writing and editing goes into one of my husband’s sermons…aagghh!

  5. I preached a message on judgment and hell at a conference in Felixstowe, England, and an Irishman at the door said, “How could you preach about hell and not weep?” I have never forgotten it and I hope that I am a more compassionate preacher now when dealing with eternal verities.

  6. Dear Workman:
    Shortly after arriving at my first church, on a Monday morning bright and early, an eighty-something former English teacher shows up at my office, sits in the chair across from my desk, removes a notepad from her purse and written thereon are all of the grammatical and pronunciation errors that I had made in the previous days’ message. She proveeded to go through the list one by one.
    As she was reading and correcting, seeking to teach me, I began to think “I can take this really badly or not. Lord, help me.”
    At the conclusion of the lesson, I thanked her, heartily for her comments. I was thank ful that she listened that closely and had not fallen asleep. I also told her that I really wanted to be an excellent preacher, and not make sloppy errors. I encouraged her to please listen closely, and to please point out to me where i had messed up.
    I don’t remember her ever coming back to me like this again. She really became a dear friend to me. Thank the Lord for His direction and help.

  7. Two examples, both from my most recent church. I had preached a narrative sermon and one of our “more senior” members wrote a letter to our elder board filled with vitriol. He said that that was the sorriest excuse for a sermon and I was the sorriest example of a preacher he had ever seen. Ironically, I got more positive feedback on that sermon that most of the ones I have ever preached.

    Second, and more recently, a parishioner who was a former minister (& had his PhD in Greek) came to my office and stated that while my sermons were good, they were pretty shallow. (Again, ironically, I had been criticized just a couple of months before because my sermons were “too deep and theological”. I believe that in both cases it says more about where the person is coming from than it does about my preaching. But I asked the former minister if he would meet with me every 2-3 weeks and we could look at upcoming Greek texts together. We did and I gained immeasurable.

    Tragically, a year ago this month, he was camping up in the Cascade Mountains here in Oregon, slipped on a tree across a mountain stream, hit his head, knocking him unconscious & he drowned in the stream. I miss him still a year later. God uses all sorts of people to sharpen us. And Satan uses all sorts of people to tear us down. Knowing the difference is a lesson only learned over time.

  8. Thank you for these witnesses to the need for patience and humility while taking feedback. This pastor-in-training appreciates it greatly!

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