I used to look forward to hearing folks say, “good sermon” or “great job preaching” when I first started out. It helped me feel like I didn’t bomb and maybe somebody got some use out of how I delivered the passage. As I look back I realize I was a little too thirsty for affirmation or at least I was looking for it in the wrong place.
These days after I have shared a message I look to see how God might use the application of his word in someone’s life. I understand that might tell me it was a “good” message for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with real life application. They may have simply just enjoyed a joke or story. In which case I’m glad I helped them laugh, but I’d rather help them live gospel centered lives.
I find myself praying for people while I’m preaching to them. I know these people and some of their struggles. There are a few who it doesn’t matter what I say, if I don’t say it in the style of sermon (and it is just a style) to which they are accustomed, they won’t hear the passage. Their tradition has so elevated the platform of a particular sub-style of preaching that they have voided the Scripture of its power and so knowing this I call them out and say, “so maybe the Word just spoke to you today” hoping that the self-righteous heart might still hear from God, though they didn’t hear a “good” sermon in the style of their favorite pastor.
Then there are the folks who I know will shudder when I say “Holy Spirit” and talk about Him in personal terms. I know that their minds will explode with either amazement or anger when I tell them that the passage teaches that He isn’t far away and doesn’t need to be “fetched” when we need something. Rather, He is in the life of a believer and can be called on, or better depended on when it comes to living a God centered life. Indeed it’s at this point a new couple walks out. Either the sermon is too long for taste or I’ve just dropped a bomb and their reaction was anger rather than amazement. I didn’t seek to offend, but sometimes the Scriptures are not palatable to our preferences of preconceived notions. My personal preference would be for people to stay but I cannot apologize for the text and if I eclipse this truth for the sake of the audience then I have no business preaching.
So these days I don’t worry so much about hearing from folks on if it was a “good sermon.” I attempt to peer more into lives afterwards to see how God might have used the effective preaching of His Word to change lives. I look for comments on how the passage we have studied together has shifted attitudes and actions. I simply and quietly praise God when I hear that someone has repented of a particular sin and found Christ as sufficient in response to the preaching of His Word.