The best reward a preacher can get
Do you give your preacher feedback after the sermon? If you don’t, you should. And if you do, would you like to give more encouraging feedback?
Let’s consider three common ways of giving feedback and think about which is the most encouraging to a preacher.
First: “That was really good.” This is often said to preachers, but they don’t find it all that encouraging.
The preacher has just spent a fair number of hours in the week poring over the text, considering carefully how best to present the message in a way that will be clear and impactful and thinking deeply about how the text applies to the people who will be hearing the sermon. Preachers will often pray over their sermon preparation, asking God to change people through the preaching of the Word. They are hoping for people to be changed, to understand the point of the passage, to want to apply the text to their life.
Unfortunately, telling your preacher that he just preached “a really good sermon” doesn’t help the preacher see that the sermon achieved any of these things.
Second: “You could have done this bit better” or “You missed that bit.” This feedback can also leave the preacher feeling like there was something missing. It is a little more encouraging than the first because it shows that people were listening and thinking during the sermon. This is good news for the preacher – people are engaging with the text to the point that they come up with a better way of explaining it, or an application that the preacher missed.
The problem with this type of feedback is that the preacher is left wondering if you were just listening critically, trying to hear those parts of the sermon that could have been done better – or if you were listening in order to be changed by the message. Remember, that is what a good preacher is striving for – a clear and accurate explanation of the Bible, applied to the congregation’s lives, changing the hearts of those who hear.
“It shows the preacher that despite his many failings, God’s Word is not returning void. People are getting it.”
The preacher knows there were things that could have been done better and I’m sure he’s thankful for tips for improvement, but what are we telling our preachers by our feedback? Are we telling them that we come to church each week to hear them preach so that we can help them improve their preaching? Or are we telling them that we have come to submit to what the Bible says and be changed by it?
Third: “I was really encouraged/rebuked/corrected/taught by this part of the sermon and it made me think about this part of the text and that part of my life. What do you think about ….?”
This is what preachers love to hear. What’s so good about this feedback? Well, it shows the preacher that you were impacted by the preached word in specific ways. This is such an encouragement, as it helps the preacher to see that God is using His Word preached. It shows the preacher that despite his many failings, God’s Word is not returning void. People are getting it. The congregation are thinking about the text.
The preacher will see a variety of ways in which the sermon encouraged, rebuked, built up and corrected. He will be encouraged that the congregation are seeking to understand the Bible more deeply and apply it more fully to their lives.
And just imagine what conversations over a cup of tea would be like if we all gave each other this sort of feedback after the sermon! Imagine if we each shared these same sorts of thoughts not just with the preacher but also with our fellow church attendees.
Tom Eglington is manager of Reformers’ Bookshop, Stanmore, NSW