7 Reasons People Might Hate Our Preaching...
Every preacher knows the discouragement of looking out on an obviously disengaged audience - glassy stares, confused looks, slowly closing eyes just moments from a nap - it's awful. While some of the responsibility lands in the laps of our listeners, most of the responsibility is ours as preachers.
Our job is to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15). That's the command the apostle Paul gave young Timothy - a green, insecure, uncertain pastor in a jacked up situation.
I am part of a tribe that takes this task seriously. We preach the Word week in and week out. We don't play games with God's Word. But, if we're not careful we can make the mistake of believing that faithful preaching means nothing more than mere accuracy. I believe Paul's encouragement to Timothy begs more than accuracy alone.
Here are seven reasons people might hate our preaching (even if it's Biblically accurate)…
1. We are not concise
Some sermons are simply too long! Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, told the pastors he trained not to preach over forty minutes. He said, "If a fellow cannot say all he has to say in that time, when will he say it?" We owe quality, not quantity to our listeners. Preaching long sermons is not a badge of honor, more often it is a by-product of not being sufficiently prepared. Which brings us to the second reason.
2. We are not prepared
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've preached sermons where even I wasn't certain what I was trying to say. It wasn't from lack of study, or reading. Any lack of clarity I've ever experienced resulted from a lack of prayer. Commentaries are an unbelievable grace to us, but why are we content to ask dead guys for help when we have direct access to the living God whose book we preach? People need a prepared preacher, not just a prepared sermon. Nothing prepares both the preacher and the sermon like prayer.
3. We are not loving
I'm amazed at the difficult and direct words you can speak to people IF you love them. That's an important IF. Sometimes people are offended by our sermons because the gospel is inherently offensive. Many times people are offended by our sermons because we are unloving jerks. We have no business confronting sin in the lives of people we don't love. If we look at the sheep God has entrusted to us and feel irritation, rather than compassion, we're not shepherding like Jesus. Be direct. Say hard things. Confront sin. Just make sure LOVE is your motivation.
4. We are not compelling
Can we be honest? Some of our sermons are simply BORING! Based on some of the preaching I've listened to, you'd think we equate faithfulness with boring. Faithful preaching should be more fun than reading footnotes. I would argue that few sins are worse than boring people with the Bible. So how do we avoid this? For starters, if you're not gripped by God's Word, don't expect your listeners to be. We should climb into the pulpit feeling like we're going to explode because of the good word God's put in our hearts. We should be creative. We should illustrate. We should apply. We should use all tools at our disposal. But more than anything else, our passion for Who we preach must me clear.
5. We are not organized
It's been said that if there's a mist in the pulpit, there's a fog in the people. Nothing fills a sermon with fog like a lack of organization. There are many ways to organize a sermon, but every sermon needs to be organized. We need a big idea, an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. People should be able to tell where we are, when we're transitioning and what we're trying to say. Use whatever type of preaching notes best fit your particular gifts, but labor at organization.
6. We are not helpful
Telling people what to believe and what to do is not enough. That's not helpful. People need to know why and they need to know how. Nothing is more discouraging than being told what to believe and what to do, but not knowing why or how. Careful application is one of the most often overlooked components of preaching. Careful application demands we grow in the final reason people may hate our preaching.
7. We are not thoughtful
When I first started preaching I preached to one type of person. Sadly, even that one person was a caricature in my mind and not a single person in my church. I wasn't mindful of the people I was preaching to. I wasn't thinking about them. I wasn't listening in counseling sessions. I wasn't reading through prayer requests with a discerning ear. Nobody wants to listen to a sermon preached over their head. We should prep with faces and names at the front of our minds. Actual people. Actual problems. Actual pain. Only then can we thoughtfully apply our text to our people.
What I find most overwhelming about preaching, is all the ways it can go wrong. These are just seven and I'm certain if we put our heads together we could come up with many more. What's encouraging is that we can all grow in each of these areas. These seven reasons people might hate our preaching have little to do with our capability. God always empowers us for everything He calls us to.
Let's labor to rightly handle the word of truth. Too much is at stake to phone it in. Too much hangs in the balance if we equate faithfulness with accuracy alone. By God's grace we can preach life-changing, sin-killing, faith-strengthening sermons.
Sunday's coming. Always labor for accuracy. But in addition, let's get on our knees, in God's Word and preach a concise, prepared, loving, compelling, helpful, and thoughtful sermon this Sunday.