If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible

If you agree with your pastor 100% of the time, you’re in a cult.


There is nothing more discouraging to a pastor than spending all week preparing a sermon, getting it together, feeling good about it, and bursting at the seams to deliver it. The juices flow, dreams flash in the mind of conversions and changed lives with weeping and dancing with joy.

Then, three minutes after the “amen” of the closing prayer, Tim, long-time member of the church, walks up and says, “Um, the word you based your sermon on? Yeah, that’s a different Greek word than all the other words those other verses use. Your point doesn’t really carry over.”

If I were a balloon, this would be the time when all the air would blow out of me; I’d make that weird deflating balloon noise, and spin around in the air and then fall flat on the floor. I never checked the Greek. I try to play it off cool, “Oh, well the idea is kind of the same, but yeah, OK, I’ll check on that.”

I go home and check. Yup, Tim was right. I was wrong. My point isn’t actually the point of the rest of those verses. My whole sermon, nay, my whole last week is shot. I blew it. How could I miss that detail? It’s not like Tim isn’t checking everything on his phone the entire time I’m preaching. I know better.

Tim’s are annoying. Tim’s are also amazingly helpful. Tim’s typically share their information well, they try not to be jerks, they know you and you know them. Tim is trying to help. Yet no matter how well Tim helps, how gracious he may be, the deflation is real. Being corrected like that is no fun.

But over the years of dealing with the Tim’s of the church, along with the ones who argue and are wrong and the ones who argue and are right, sometimes done with grace, other times down with disrespectful anger or glee, the pastor grows.

Even when people are completely wrong in their arguments, even when their complaint is perhaps the stupidest thing ever, the pastor can still learn. I listen to the complaints and the fault-finding. Right or wrong they make me think. They make me prepare better for next time. They help me analyze a point or an angle on a subject I never considered before.

Yes, it would be way more awesome if every time I spoke everyone clapped and changed their lives and gave me high fives, shook my hand, hugged me and cried for joy at being set free, that’s not going to happen.

And, quite frankly, that’s good. There’s no way I can be right all the time; I’m human. I’m learning. My mouth doesn’t always say what my brain is thinking even when my brain is thinking correctly. Sometimes my tone is what sets people off not even my content. If everyone in my church liked everything I said and did, I’d be very worried.

If everyone in the church is growing, including the pastor, they are going to change their opinions. As each person grows, they are confronted with new information. New information may sound like heresy to some. The church is a place where people are supposed to be working things through as they grow in Christ treating each other with grace and patience. Unity doesn’t mean lockstep belief. Unity means getting along whether we agree on everything or not because love is patient and kind and we’re heading toward Christ.

If everyone agrees then either no one is growing or the leader has such sway over people that you are no longer in a church, you are now in a cult.

If no one has complained about your sermons in a while, or no one has expressed any fault with something you’ve taught, that’s not good. You may not be challenging them enough. You might be contentedly repeating the party line to keep em happy. Perhaps the people are too afraid of you. There could be many reasons, none of which are good, unless you claim that every person in your church is perfect including you.

Jesus Christ argued with a lot of people. He was constantly challenging what people believed, using every opportunity to poke people in the eye. Paul does the same thing. James is in his own league! Be like that. Confront, challenge, and make em think. Don’t be too discouraged when fault is found. Check yourself, maybe you’re wrong. If nothing else, hey, someone out there is thinking about something you said! And that’s pretty cool.



For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
–1 Corinthians 11:19

2 thoughts on “If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible

  1. Very cool! Long, long ago we used to have a debrief the sermon session, with pie no less. It was a really neat way of letting the pastor know what we had heard, how it had impacted us. Also we could get him to elaborate on certain things. Often what you preach is not what people receive, not what they hear. Sometimes they hear something even better.

    What breaks my heart in my church today, people say the sermon was “just fine,” and I know immediately they didn’t hear a darn word. Their hearing aids were turned off, they weren’t paying attention, they fell asleep three minutes in. I cut people some slack, especially older ones or people with small children, but a big problem in our church right now is a lack of engagement.


    1. Yes, I never have any idea what people hear. And for the most part, I’m pretty shocked by what people come up with! People hear what they want. But my hope is to use a lot of Scripture and let the Words of Life get stuck in their head.

      My point in a sermon isn’t always just the point of the sermon, but a progressive, constant reminder of how to use the Bible in context so they will know how to use it whenever they need it, not just on Sunday when the guy up there is saying stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

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