How should a pastor respond when he is praised for a good sermon?

“Great job…good sermon…that really spoke to me.”  The list of phrases a pastor may hear as church members exit the church goes on.  Inevitably, whether the sermon was good or not, these quick comments will be spoken to us with varying levels of sincerity and it is important that we know how to respond in a God-honoring way.  Here are 4 suggestions:

1)  Say Thank You

It is sad when a pastor tries to wear a false humility to hide either his insecurities or inability to know how to receive a kind word.  It usually shows up in a pastor’s response after a kind, encouraging comment in this way, “Uh…no it wasn’t a good sermon.  I missed it here, stumbled over my words here…”  Just stop it and say “thank you for your kind words.”

2)  Be grateful for the encouragement

Regardless the comment, if it was meant to encourage you, thank them for their encouraging words.  Be grateful that however small, simple, or even shallow the comment, someone took the time to share their thoughts with you.  Be grateful and receive it that way.

3)  Be Humble that the Lord would dare use you

What should humble us more than a hearer taking time to encourage us about our sermon, is the fact that God would choose to use broken vessels like us week after week, Sunday after Sunday to feed God’s people with God’s word.  That should amaze us with every kind word extended to us.  When it ceases to amaze us, then we should start worrying.

4)  Give God all the Glory

The great temptation when complimented about a sermon is to think the fruit of our labors ultimately is about us and because of us.  When a kind word is extended to us about our sermon, make sure God is credited and praised.  Not superficially, but sincerely.  We can give God glory with our lips in response, but inside be ate up with pride.

Suggested Responses:

In light of these suggestions, here are a few ways I think it is appropriate to respond to a kind word extended to us after a sermon:

“Thank you for your kind words, isn’t God good the way he speaks to each of us through his word.”

“Thank you for your encouragement, I am grateful to God he used his word in that way.”

“I am grateful you took the time to share the way God’s word has affected you.  This passage effected me in similar ways.  God is so gracious.”

Pastors, receive the kind words offered to you. Be encouraged by it.  It will help you through the discouragement that often comes on Monday.  And stay humble for in 6 days you get to do it all over again.

Posted in Preaching

How does a pastor shepherd his people when there is a lack of common interest with them?

A young pastor once wrote me with this excellent question.  He is still fairly new at his church and has gone to pastor a church in an area and culture that is pretty foreign to him.  One of the challenges this poses is how to find common interests with his people in the church, especially the elderly.  He finds he is having a hard time connecting on several levels and gets nervous when they invite him to fish or garden when he has never done either one.

Here was my response with hopes it might help some of you facing the same challenges in your church:

This is a great question and one to consider in light of where you serve.  The best thing to do to win them as your pastor is to go see them where they are and do what they do with them.  If you don’t fish, go fishing with them and learn to do it.  If they like to garden, go with them and ask them to teach you.  I found myself doing many of those things to communicate my desire to get to know them and learn about what they love.  If you think about it, it is better for you to go do things with them they love you don’t, as that communicates most powerfully your love for them in those sacrificial efforts as well as a teachable spirit to learn from them.

I have gardened, walked 5 miles on a track with an 90-year-old, got whipped in Wii golf by an elderly man, and taken a group of older ladies to Cracker Barrel for lunch–not because I necessarily loved to do those things, but because I loved them and wanted to communicate it to them.  Because it was with my folks, I enjoyed all of these activities.  Apply this principle and I think you will see some fruit over time.  If not, the Lord will most certainly mature you as you sacrifice for your people and seek to love them in this way.  This is one of the best ways not just to build relationships with your people, but to break down walls of resistance that may exist towards the young, new pastor.

Pastors, whether it is your wife, children, or flock sometimes love and sacrifice is most powerfully communicated when you do something they love and you don’t.  Applying this principle in your family and ministry will serve you well.

Posted in Discipleship, Oversight of Souls

How do you encourage a widow whose husband has been gone for many years?

The best way to care for a widow of many years, is not to forget the loss they felt a long time ago is still real today.  The pain never goes away.  They may learn better how to live alone, keep themselves busy with life, but the void always remains.  Here is a practical suggestion that my amazing wife inspired: Visit them and surprise them with a gift they were not expecting.

Recently, my wife and our kids spent a day making chocolate candy.  They had made so much that my wife suggested they take some to the widows of our church (my wife is full of good spontaneous ideas).  My kids were thrilled, so they loaded up on a hot 100 degree day, packed the candy in ice, and went to several houses of the widows in our congregation.

It was amazing how grateful each lady was to see Cara and the kids.  How grateful they were for the chocolate and just the company.  This is a great way to encourage our widows of many years who often feel forgotten in the busyness of our lives and the passing of years.  Do it in faith, as you never know how your willingness to serve in this way will be used by God.

Cara had no idea that one widow in particular who they visited that day was facing an especially difficult day-the day of her husband’s tragic drowning 39 years ago.  That widow shared with me that next Sunday how much of a gift from God it was that they came to see her that day.

Take time to visit the widows.  Take your kids.  Make something with the kids and allow them to take whatever goodies you make to the door.  Go visit a widow this week and anticipate that God will use you to encourage and minister to that lonely saint in unique ways that will remind them Christ and his people have not forgotten them.

One more thing.  Leave a few samples behind for Dad when he comes home.  He will appreciate it…trust me.

Posted in Caring for Widows

How do pastors incorporate Psalm singing in their worship services?

Well, like everything else new to the congregation…incorporate slowly.  We started a few years ago to try to include Psalms in our corporate gatherings and did so slowly.  Gradually.  We built up to what we experienced a year ago in our morning gathering (The entire musical portion of the service was singing a long Psalm congregationally).  Let me share 3 ways we tried slowly to shepherd our church to see the value in Psalm singing.

1) Teach about Paul’s instruction to sing Psalms

Paul writes to the Colossians and Ephesians and instructs them to sing, “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  Regardless how you interpret this instruction, the Psalms play some role in the corporate gathering of the church.  Teach from the pulpit on it.  Preach a sermon on these passages.  Allow the word to form a desire in your people to sing Psalms because it is commanded.

2) Have someone sing a Psalm in the service

If you have a moment in the service where a song is sung by someone and it is not congregational, we found a Psalm is an excellent option to insert there.  Instead of the typical, “entertainment solo” have someone sing a Psalm and invite your people to open their Bibles to that Psalm and follow along as it is sung.  This was impactful in our services and exposed our folks to Psalm singing without asking them to try to sing…yet.

3) Sing Psalms put to familiar tunes

When it is time to involve the congregation, find Psalms that are written to musical tunes that are familiar to your congregation.  You will probably find some in your hymnal you use, or there are other resources that offer this kind of music.  We sing Psalms that are to the tunes of many well-known, classic hymns.  One of the things that scare most people from singing Psalms is how taxing it is to try to learn a new tune to a lot of new words in a song.  Eliminate one and you will find that a great help.

These 3 things gradually incorporated over the course of a few years were essential to our people growing to love the Psalms, both in hearing them read and sung.  May they serve you in some fashion as you consider the best and most helpful way to incorporate them into your corporate gatherings.

Posted in Discipleship, Oversight of Souls
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