I was told, “Good sermon” every single Sunday I preached. Even I know I didn’t have a good sermon every single Sunday of my 21-year pastoral career. So, what exactly do people mean when they say, “Good sermon?” There are several possibilities.
1. They actually thought it was a good sermon.
I mean, you know, it could happen. There’s an outside chance that you had a good sermon with good content and delivery that met someone right where they needed to be met. It’s possible. Unlikely, but possible. So, let’s be optimistic and assume they meant “Good sermon,” because it actually was a good sermon.
2. They don’t know what else to say.
In many churches the pastor stands between the audience and the exit. In order to get out of the room you have to say something. “Good sermon” is a nice way to deflect attention, hide behind the compliment while making the escape. A giant smoke screen while the wife and kids scoot by real quick.
3. Lies, it’s all lies.
Most people are nice, they don’t want to pick a fight with the pastor. It’s easier to say “good sermon” than in it is to mention a few fine points of doctrine they thought were off. Many people don’t like confrontation. It’s just a little white lie, doesn’t hurt anyone.
4. The one illustration they heard was good.
Most people aren’t listening to the sermon. They are staring at the ceiling or on their phone. They did, however, hear that one time when you told that story about the McRIb. They liked that. They have no idea what point was illustrated, but the McRib story was a nice diversion. Helped them pass the time.
It’s like when I hold up a plate with grease all over it after my son does the dishes, “Hey, nice job washing dishes, boy.” They hated the sermon. It was awful, you’re a heretic, they should have preached instead of you. It’s just sarcastic derision. Usually you can tell if it’s sarcasm, but the three page email you’ll get Tuesday will definitely confirm it.
I don’t like being cynical. “Love believes all things,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. I struggle with that. I’d like to simply take a compliment, but I struggle, especially when it’s the same person every Sunday without fail. It seems insincere after a while.
The way I know it was a good sermon is when people implement biblical change into their life. That’s the ultimate and maybe only real compliment: changed lives. That’s too much to ask for and hard to see though, so you’re left with “good sermon.”
When people say “Good sermon,” I say, “Thank you” and let it go at that. Judgment Day will let me know how good my sermons were. If the Lord says to me, “Good sermons,” I will be ecstatic. Until then I’ll keep doubting the compliments, but hoping they’re true.
And, hey, good job reading this post.