As any preacher will tell you, some of the most agonizing moments of the week come after the sermon is over, after the service has concluded, after the sanctuary is empty, after the people have gone home, and after the Sunday afternoon nap. Preachers are people too, and they naturally wonder, "How did I do today?" Besides being evaluated by the people who heard the sermon, they also wonder what the Lord thought about it. Rare is the preacher who can deliver a message and then walk away from it without another thought.
And in the nature of things, a lot of that introspection happens on Sunday night. So here are five questions to help you turn that musing into something productive. It's worth thinking about these things, and it's probably worth jotting down a few notes to yourself.
1. What happened during the sermon that surprised me? This wide open question reminds us that no sermon ever goes exactly as planned. Sometimes the first part of the service took longer than planned so you had to squeeze the sermon at the end. Or people may have been distracted by the weather. Maybe that hard section you struggled over all week suddenly flowed easily. Perhaps something you hadn't prepared came to mind as you preached. Or an illustration didn't connect. Or (and this often happens) something that clicked in one service seemed to fall flat in another. Perhaps God gave great liberty at the very end to press home the gospel. Or maybe you had trouble landing the plane on the first try. All sorts of things happen when we preach and we do well to take note of them.
2. What response (beyond the ordinary) did I receive? The phrase "beyond the ordinary" is meant to block out the usual "Nice sermon, Pastor" that you receive from some people every week. Did someone tell you "God spoke to my need through your message"? Did you receive a note or an email of encouragement this afternoon? Did someone thank you for lifting up the cross of Christ? Did someone trust Christ for salvation today? It's important that we take time to remember how the Lord used the sermon to change lives for eternity.
3. What did God speak to my own heart through my sermon? This question reminds us that we are both hearers and speakers of the Word of God. While we give out the Word, we must also be hearers of the Word. The pastor ought to be part of the congregation while he preaches. If we believe in the Holy Spirit, then we ought to expect to be challenged to praise, worship, obedience, forgiveness, kindness, boldness and prayer. Perhaps the Lord nudged you with something specific like "Call George." Only you know that means. But if your sermon leads you to that thought, then you'd better call George-and sooner rather than later.
4. What should I remember if I preach this sermon again? It's true that most sermons only get preached one time. But you never know so before you put the sermon to bed and move on, think about what notes you need to write that might help you next time. Perhaps your introduction needs sharpening. Maybe you need to shorten the second point. Did you hear a story between services that you used in a later service? Write down your thoughts using the "Comments" feature in most word processing software. A few sentences tonight may produce a more powerful sermon next time.
5. What should I be thinking about regarding next Sunday? Remember that even if you aren't in a series, your people hear your sermons as a connected whole. One sermon always leads to another. So ask yourself what you heard as you talked to your people today. We should expect the Holy Spirit to give us some early sense of what needs to be stressed next Sunday. Whatever comes to mind, jot it down. Don't trust you memory on something this important. Did someone ask you a leading question? Perhaps you prayed with several people today with the same problem. These early thoughts may lead you to some important insights regarding your sermon for next Sunday.
preachers spend time evaluating, these five questions can help you do
it in a more productive way. And it shouldn't take long. You should be
able to answer all five questions in ten or fifteen minutes. And having
done this self-analysis, remember that God is the final judge and you
won't get his verdict until much farther down the road. Ask the
questions, jot down your answers, thank God for the privilege of being
a preacher, commit your work to the Lord of the Harvest, and then go to
bed and have a good night's sleep.