This might surprise you, but one of the most dangerous times for a pastor are the hours following his Sunday sermon. You step down from the pulpit still wired and juices flowing as you greet those leaving from the service. Then, like after a good jog, you begin to calm down, your body starts to return to “I’m not preaching mode” which then brings a temporary, but real emotional let down with it. These reasons are enough not to trust our instincts and discernment in these moments. Yet, what we also inevitably face during this emotional tailspin are the encouragements, comments, questions, and criticisms (or lack there of) given from those who sat under our sermon. Needless to say, how objectively and honestly to evaluate our own sermon in the midst of all this can be a bit of a challenge. Here are a few suggestions I have found helpful:
Receive the encouragements now. Nothing lifts the spirit in the emotional spiral of post-sermon fitigue like a warm, honest, specific comment from a church member about how the sermon was helpful to them. Those are a gift from God by His grace. Receive it immediately, but receive it humbly realizing it was only the work of God to help that person, not the craftiness or eloquence of your sermon.
Store away the criticisms for Tuesday morning. Any criticisms you hear need to be received, graciously acknowledged, and then honestly considered, but not one hour after your sermon. Most of us who have just poured our hearts out in preaching are not at a good place to evaluate criticisms. Always graciously receive all comments. However, those comments that may be particularly hard or even harsh to hear are better evaluated after 2 good nights of sleep. Write them down. Leave them on your desk. Try to forget about them until Tuesday. I have not always been able to do this, but when I have had the discipline to do so…it is worth it!
Look forward to Service Review later that evening. If you do not have a process in place to evaluate the services and sermons for the day with other pastors and those training for the ministry, I would strongly encourage you to do so. About 4-6 of us meet for an hour on Sunday evenings after the evening service to discuss these things. It is very helpful to try and evaluate your sermon among trusted, discerning brothers in your church who desire for you to grow. See these previous posts for more info on the purpose and process of a Service Review.
Recognize your work is done. The best thing to do a hour after your sermon is to realize your hard labor from the week that peaked in the pulpit a few minutes ago is now over. For better or worse, you were faithful. Find great joy and encouragement that God will do the rest through His Spirit being at work in His people who heard the Word of God preached. How peaceful we rest Sunday night as we lay in bed depends much on how much faith we have that God and His Word does the work and even my disappointing sermon I just preached does not change that.
I hope this helps you evaluate your sermons in a more fruitful manner for there is one thing better than not just being willing to evaluate your sermons honestly and that is knowing “when” is the most fruitful time to do so.