So how did it go this Sunday?
This question is asked many times each week. Some pastor talks to another pastor. And whatever the agenda of the discussion, it is likely one will ask the other about the previous Lord’s Day service.
Did you have a good day?
What did you preach?
How did it go?
The answer typically includes comments about Sunday’s attendance, offering, and steps of faith taken. Then we describe how we think the sermon went.
We may feel we were not quite ready.
We may feel the sermon could have been shorter.
We may feel the presentation had hiccups.
We may feel the message did not connect.
We may feel it all went pretty well.
But is our limited and tainted perspective right? Is there a more objective way to know how Sunday went? Can we really know how it went after we preach?
Here are five basic ways to know measure your Sunday sermon.
A faithful exposition. How did you treat the text? This is the all-important question. Did you rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)? Your seminary professors may not be impressed. But would God be pleased? Examine your sermon in light of your fidelity to the God-intended meaning of the text.
A prepared message. The primary goal of sermon preparation is faithfulness to the truth. But the preacher’s job is not done after the hard work of biblical exegesis is complete. What you have worked to understand you must then work to make understandable to those who will hear the message. Good interpretation is prone to collapse in the sinkhole of sloppy preaching. Can you say that you stood study with a well-prepared message?
A Christ-centered focus. We must preach Christ, not ourselves. And we must preach Christ, not our people. Do not allow the desire for relevance to hijack the agenda of the sermon. You cannot help your people by preaching about them. You must preach Christ to help people. Christ is our message (Col 1:28-29). Without him, we have nothing to preach. Did you preach Jesus?
A pastoral concern. The old axiom is true. People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Preach the truth. But do so in love. Preach the word with the heart of a shepherd. Lovingly nurture the flock the Lord has placed under your charge. Even if you are preaching to unbelievers, view them as lost sheep who need to be loving lead back to God. Did you preach the truth in love?
A consecrated heart. You have studied the text. You have written your sermon. You have prepared for the details of the worship service. But have you prepared you? Have you applied the truth of the text to your own heart? Have you repented of your sins? Consider whether both the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart is acceptable in God’s sight as you preach (Ps. 19:14).
Here’s a bonus point…
A trusting abandonment. Ultimately, we cannot know how Sunday really went. Our perspective is too limited. The harvest comes at the end of this present age, not the end of the worship service. The person who eagerly responded may fall away. And the person who seemed to reject the message may later have that planted seed watered and bear fruit. You don’t know.
Pastor Marshall told me of a member of his church who was saved under my father’s preaching. The man heard my father at the 8 am service, but left without responding. Yet grace gripped him on his way home. And he went to Marshall’s nearby church and trusted Christ at his 11 am service.
Pastor Marshall told me this story. But he did not get to tell my father the story. My father may have went home that day thinking his preaching was in vain, not knowing that God was at work in ways he did not know.
The same is true for you and me. We don’t know what the Lord is doing in, through, and beyond our preaching. So preach the word with a trusting abandonment. Be a faithful steward of the truth. But don’t try to steward the results. Plant and water the seed. And trust God to give the increase.
So how did it really go this Sunday?