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talking at church

After purchasing something during the Christmas season the salesperson handed me the receipt and said, “Here you go. You will be contacted in a few days to complete a brief survey. You could win a gift-certificate.” I smiled politely and said, “OK. Thanks.” It’s not that I was going to avoid the survey but I certainly wasn’t going to go out of my way to look for it. In my mind there is not much more that they need from me after I take the receipt. However, my perspective changed when I was speaking to my college-aged son about how his work incentivized customer service through these surveys. Good survey results are good for him. I’ll admit it, now I’m more attuned to how I can help the salesperson and the respective companies to improve.

In a similar vein I’d like to encourage you who are members of a local church to have buy in to what is preached in your pulpit. As a preacher myself I can tell you that your feedback is immensely helpful.

Let me pull back the curtain for a minute and provide a brief overview of our mysterious craft to those of you who are not preachers. We spend hours each week reading, meditating on, and praying through our text. We have a few days to become intimately acquainted with it. We strive to learn all of its nuances, textures, hues, and beauty. We read commentaries to better understand it and through prayer strike the rock of the text in hopes that a miracle would happen and water would gush out of it. But we don’t do this simply for ourselves (though we benefit immensely from this weekly discipline). We do it for our congregation. We do it for you. We tirelessly work, doing our very best to get the marrow of the text into our bones so that we can get it into the hearts and minds of those who will gather on Sunday morning. During the week we think of various people whom we love in our churches. We are pulled over by the Holy Spirit, like a divine police cruiser, to pray for members of our church. More than anything we want God to be glorified by you getting the text—or perhaps better—the text getting you! This is everything to us during the week. Then we preach and deliver this clumsily but nevertheless lovingly wrapped homiletical package to you. We finish and close in prayer. It is done. We walk down from the pulpit and sing the closing song with you. We hear the benediction with you. Then we move about the church talking to many of you even as we have labored in prayer for you this week. We love God, you and this text.

You know what happens so often after this? Pastors don’t hear much about the sermon. Here then is my plea to you, consider providing regular, thoughtful feedback to your pastor.

Now hear me out. I am not advocating simple nice things or compliments to your pastor to make him feel better as if he is hanging on by a thread. In fact, for your sake and for his, I would encourage you against empty flattery or critique. Instead, I am advocating for intentional thoughtful feedback on what has been preached.

Here are 3 reasons why:

1) It helps him to hear how his preaching is being heard. Are you hearing what he is saying? Is he getting his point across? We don’t simply want to know that we are heard as much as we do that the Word of God is being received, contemplated, and applied.

2) It provides a framework for understanding the theological and practical depth of the congregation. In talking about the Bible with church members we as preachers better understand what is believed and how it is applied. Help us help you.

3) It reinforces the fact that you are part of a church family where you rely upon each other. Let’s remember that we are all church members. We are all to serve one another. The preacher’s job is to communicate God’s Word. He has been gifted, called, and installed to this office for a reason. But he is not there by himself nor is he there for himself—he is there for others. This feedback around the topic of the sermon provides a reinforcement of God’s order and design of the church.

In light of this, here are 4 more things that will help you to do this better.

1) Prioritize prayerful preparation. Pray for your pastor during the week. He is praying for you so return the favor. Pray that he would be deeply affected by the Word of God and that he would communicate the truth of the Scriptures in a clear, faithful, powerful way. Prayerfully prepare your heart for the Sunday gathering.

2) Engage in careful listening. Listen to the preaching like you really have to listen. If this is how God has appointed you to grow and the context where you are to grow then this 45 minutes each Sunday is vitally important. You should listen carefully. Consider taking notes or at least writing down things that arrest your heart.

3) Provide thoughtful feedback. Consider what you can say to encourage your pastor in his preaching. It is not very helpful to say, “Awesome sermon today.” You may really believe that, and without taking anything away from this, it is not very helpful. The pastor is no doubt thinking, “What was awesome?” Consider how different it would be if you said, “You really helped me to better understand how God loves me even amid my sin through your second point.” Or, “I hadn’t thought of God very much as Father, but this sermon on the Lord’s prayer helped me to see God a bit differently. It is helping my prayer life.” Or, “Your 3rd point was not very clear to me, can you help me better understand what your were driving at?” Or, “When you were talking about God creating us in his image I was reminded of how I should love others but don’t. Do you have any practical suggestions on this?”

4) Perhaps it is best to take some time to pray and mull it over. I’m not saying that everyone should rush the pastor every week with something to say. Perhaps take some time and drop him an email, a card, or make some time to visit and talk on occasion. Many times people at our church have talked to me weeks after a sermon to clarify or pick up dialog on a topic. I was blessed by their time wrestling through the text and its implications.

When you think of your pastor and his preaching don’t think of it like an uninterested consumer. Instead think in terms of a family, a partnership in the most important organization in the world. You are working together to display the glory of God as you hear and respond to God’s word together. Be intentional then in your conversations together.


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5 thoughts on “Giving Your Pastor Sermon Feedback”

  1. Chuckt says:

    I don’t always think it is helpful. In college I had to do public speaking so it is hard to speak when someone is asleep and there were other students who took my surveys and tried to mess with the results.

    The story of Moses is that he didn’t give the people what they wanted but what they need.
    As Christians, the faith teachers will promise me health, wealth and prosperity but that is not what Jesus came to give. Do I preach a happy gospel to people or do I preach the whole gospel?

    We left an emergent church whose focus was to keep people happy and I’m sure the elders would lead us anywhere except that I could have forgotten what it means to be Christian by staying there. They kept people happy but didn’t talk about the people who committed suicide. They kept people happy but didn’t help us with our marriages. They kept us happy but didn’t teach us the Bible; They taught us men’s words but not God’s words.

    Beware of the pastor who entertain people for money.

  2. Crescent says:

    A liked the advice that you gave. It is important to encourage our pastors for sure. With your advice I’m sure one can avoid flattery abs be factual in our interactions with our pastors. Thanks for the invaluable advice.
    On the other hand, do not deaconesses/deacons and elders address generally give feedback to the pastors?

    One thing that I have found to be interesting, some pastors find it hard to accept that they might be missing the boat in their preaching sometimes, and in that case I’m sure one should ask for wisdom to address such. There is a certain level of arrogance when it comes to sermons, not in all, but in some. So congrats would find it hard to give truthful feedback.

  3. Tim A says:

    It is right for you to ask for God’s people to initiate greater mutuality and heart connection with their pastor. It shows that you see a great gulf between those in the pew and those in the pulpit. There is a great gulf. It will not be resolved by your suggestions because none of the systemic elements that create the gulf are going to be changed with your suggestions. Crescent pointed out that if believers tune in deeply to what is said, the Holy Spirit will give them points of correction the preacher does not want to hear. From his elevated post as “under shepherd”, he will not have the humility to receive a rebuke form one he considers just a sheep. When he rejects the rebuke with “I don’t see it that way” and the believer insists, that believer will be marked as a trouble maker. If the sheep gives Biblical support for his rebuke, that will make no difference to the preacher. Brother Erik, there is severe systemic corruption in place with the pulpit and pew routine. It must be repented of before believers will receive the word of God in a deeper way that leads to interaction.

  4. Peter says:

    Biblical Scholars vs local pastors:

    For the most part, Greek and Hebrew Bible scholars and theologians such as Bruce M. Metzger, Daniel Baird Wallace, and William Lane Criag, have one more more advanced degrees in disciplines ranging from Archaeology, Ancient History, Cultural backgrounds, Textual criticism, Literary criticism, Historical backgrounds, Philology, Social Sciences, archaeology, Egyptology, linguistics, sociology and theology (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_studies) and so know much more than the average local pastor who usually has gone to seminary for at least 5 years.

    So, which should have the greater authority if they differ or disagree (e.g., in theology or interpretation), Scholars and theologians or the local church pastor? What should church members do? Who should they submit to?

    In my experience most pastors do not address why a text or passage of the Bible can have different interpretations; the differences in Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts (textual variants), which also affects translations; differences in the Hebrew and Greek grammar; differences in translation and they do not mention why there are different views and theories in Christianity. Most Christians are therefore, not exposed to the vast variety of views, traditions, thoughts and systems in Christianity.

    Should pastors and Bible teachers address them? What happens when they don’t?

    The notes of the New English Translation or the “NET” Bible by Biblical Studies Press, found at http://www.bible.org lists these differences. For example, see their notes on: 2Pe 1:19-20; Rom 1:17; Eph 4:1-7; Eph 3:16-18; Joh 21:10-11; Joh 14:7; Joh 14:16-17; 1Jn 2:6; Eph 2:20-22; 2Pe 2:1-3; Mat 3:11 Jer 29:11

    see also, Matthew 18, at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/08/textual-problem-study-matthew-1815/

    Pastors don’t like to make their congregations aware of these differences probably because of lack of time or because they see them a irrelevant to “preaching the Gospel” or to a sermon. Others will instead focus on their own interpretation or view and not give support for it as we have seen. However, few will offer support for their interpretation or view but they will not go further. And very few will mention the differences or variations and argue for and against them (this approach is the one that I am advocating for). What happens if pastors and teachers do not address or mention these alternate views? Most people will become so comfortable with their one view that they will not be open to any alternate views when they encounter them. We can become so invested on our personal beliefs that we reject any other.

    That being said, should Scholars and theologians have the greater authority if they differ or disagree with your local church pastor?

    See also: “Does the Church Need A New Reformation? What I Never Learned in Church. Worldview Cafe- https://sites.google.com/site/worldviewcafe

  5. Chuckt says:

    Peter,

    I noticed one of the names on the list and I view him as liberal. The problem is when I go visit 30 churches and only four of them give the gospel. Should I give the same attention to the 26 churches that don’t care for the gospel?

    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
    http://biblehub.com/1_john/2-27.htm

    What I would give you as an answer is, “Don’t teach me”. I have the Bible. I have just as much holy ghost as another Christian because if one is anointed then we’re all anointed.

    The problem with the list of names is that it is like we’re following men instead of Christ:

    What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
    http://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/1-12.htm

    We’re supposed to grow up in the word ourselves and do the math ourselves. At the end of the day, Bruce isn’t going to be accountable for your decision.

    The question is: How many people did you bring to the Lord? And the other question is: “Why should God let you into His kingdom”?

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Erik Raymond


Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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