I was doing supply work for a couple of parishes on Sunday and before the first service the deacon announced that I would be there with them with another one of my great sermons.  (He had some other very complimentary adjectives that he used instead of great, but I don’t remember them.)   I was waiting in the back for the first hymn and the procession in, and was caught off-guard.  Fortunately, they seemed to think that I lived up to the hype.

I haven’t been thinking about that as much as another compliment I had received on my preaching about nine months ago.  A gentleman had approached me after a service during which I had neither preached nor celebrated and, mentioning a sermon I had done several months before, said he wished I preached more often at that Church.  It sticks in my mind particularly because the sermon he mentioned had been, by most objective standards, really bad.  It was short, choppy, weak, and not that well preached.  So being complimented on it was slightly awkward.

As I spent time thinking about why he would choose that sermon to compliment, I realized that what he was saying wasn’t necessarily that the sermon was good, but that the sermon connected his life to God.  He was telling me that my preaching was effective.

I’m not trying to say that bad preaching is acceptable, or that I don’t care about the compliments I received on my better preaching mean less to me.  I’m saying that I sometimes forget that the effectiveness of preaching is not reliant on the objective qualities of the preaching.  The effectiveness of preaching is about making the Gospel relevant in people’s lives.

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