If you have been in a ministry position where you preach or teach on a weekly basis, you know how it feels to preach a few terrible sermons. I had one of those experiences last night in our student ministry. Honestly, it was one of those sermons that I was just ready to be done with. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord spoke through His Word in spite of my terrible preaching and many students talked to me after the service about the topic. So what do we do after our preaching and teaching doesn’t go as well as planned? Here are a few things I have been reminding myself of since last night:
1. Trust in God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, God doesn’t need us to preach or teach the world’s best sermon. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word is powerful and able to change the heart of those who you are preaching to. You don’t have to read the Bible very long to see that God uses things that look “terrible” to us to accomplish His will. God still spoke through your terrible sermon. However, this shouldn’t push us to not prepare well and not strive to communicate God’s Word the most creative way we can, but it should give us comfort when our preaching doesn’t come out the way we intended it to.
2. Don’t dwell on it. I have a tendency to dwell on a terrible sermon. I will usually ask my fiancée over and over what she thought about it, and sometimes I even catch myself trying to “explain” to her why it was so terrible. The best thing you can do after preaching a terrible sermon is simply move on and focus on preparing your next sermon. Remind yourself of number one, trust in God’s sovereignty, and move on.
3. Learn from it. Another thing you can do after preaching a terrible sermon is to simply learn from the experience. Last night when I had my “terrible sermon” experience, I knew it wasn’t because I didn’t prepare the sermon right or study the Scriptures; it was because I stayed up way too late the night before. I was mentally and physically exhausted which resulted in not being able to communicate God’s Word well. Learning from a terrible sermon is a good way to stay humble as a preacher of God’s Word. Admit it was not your best sermon, and move on by learning from the experience. See what you need to change or do better so you can avoid it next time you preach. As people who are preaching and teaching God’s Word, we must continue to learn and grow from our mistakes.
I hope these simple thoughts will help you when you face your next “terrible sermon.” Even though God’s Word is powerful and can change hearts, we as preachers and teachers will struggle to share it well every time. If you preach God’s Word often, you will have some sermons that are not your best, but rest assured, you will have a few sermons and lessons that you knock out of the park!
Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church, wrote a great article on this same subject. I ran across it after I wrote this post and believe it would be a great article to check out. Click here to view that article.