Perhaps the best word is not “critique” but now that I have your attention, may I ask if it’s okay to have an opinion of your pastor’s sermons? Maybe you can think about it this way:
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- Do you critique different movie genres?
- Do you have an opinion on guitarist styles?
- Do you prefer certain foods over other foods?
- Do you enjoy one writer, podcaster, or actor over others?
The answer is an absolute “yes,” of course you do. Each day you choose many things over other things. If you don’t do this, you’re naive, and probably won’t live into old age. Discernment, observation, assessment, and evaluation are gifts that you must often exercise–in a spirit of love, gentleness, and unity.
And when it comes to listening to sermons, it’s imperative for you to be discerning. If a pastor tells you not to critique his sermons, you better be careful. There are two ditches in front of you:
- Ditch #1 – You’re a critical person, and it does not matter what the preacher brings, you will find fault in it.
- Ditch #2 – Your pastor is an authoritarian leader who does not welcome your observations about his sermons.
Let’s assume your pastor preaches theologically precise sermons. There is no heresy anywhere in his sermons, and he’s meticulous about biblical exegesis. What about speech crafting and oratory skill? Do those things matter? The answer is an absolute “yes.”
There is a burgeoning industry devoted to communication, public speaking, and speech writing. There is a reason there are great speeches and forgettable ones. The ability to speak well involves more than being faithful to a text of Scripture.
Unfortunately, when you talk about the “gift of public speaking,” some individuals knee-jerk by bringing up and condemning the “seeker sensitive movement” (as though you’re talking about that), and they wax on about how the church is not for our entertainment consumption.
Those knee-jerkers are missing the point. I’m not talking about devaluing the pulpit by making it a clown show that motivates shallow people to come back next Sunday to fill the seats with their butts, so their bellies can ruminate on the husks of religious mediocrity.
I’m talking about the “gift of preaching” that separates God-gifted men from those who are not as gifted in the art of oratory. It’s like a God-gifted singer, and then there is me. I’m fine as long as I’m carrying the tune, but as soon as I start singing the tune, you will turn the dial to find someone who knows how to sing.
Plainly stated, some men are good communicators, and others are not. If you cannot have a conversation about this with your pastor, you have a problem. Perhaps you are wrong in your assessment, but that’s not the primary point. The real issue is whether or not you can have the conversation.
Why Does It Matter?
One of the questions you have to resolve is why does it matter if the preacher is an effective communicator? There are two answers to this question.
Firstly, if he is not a good speaker, his “cooperation with God” in bringing the message of the gospel to people will hinder the conviction or edification that preaching offers. The power of the gospel loses force if the giftedness of the communicator is weak.
Secondly, though your church may be fantastic in many ways, the first impression that the new person experiences will be your preacher’s inability to preach well. You could respond by saying the visitor should be more mature by “looking for the meat of the Word” tucked away in the message regardless of how it’s packaged. That’s an immature perspective that does not understand the human condition in a fallen world.
You may want people to be more mature, to the point where the style of the preaching does not matter, but that’s a perfect world and worldview that does not resemble ours. Though you don’t want to cater to the lowest level of a visitor’s superficial preferences, you must be wise.
I’m talking about relating to and connecting with the average Christian (or non-Christian) without selling your soul to their non- or sub-biblical preferences. It takes a gifted person to relate to others that way. Some preachers have it, and others do not. The real question is, can you talk about these things with your pastor?
Assessment Point: If your church is declining, you want to consider the giftedness of the preacher. Though there can be many reasons a church does not retain visitors, you must not predetermine the preaching is excluded from those reasons.
Assessment Point: If the church people are not willingly taking the sermon from Sunday and transporting it to others, you may have a preaching problem. People willingly processed and shared the words of Jesus. And we also do that with good sermons.
Call to Action
- Is your pastor a gifted communicator? How do you know?
- Are you allowed to assess your pastor’s sermons in a spirit of love, gentleness, and unity?
- Are you allowed to talk to your pastor about his sermons in a spirit of love, gentleness, and unity?
Also published on Medium.