By. Dr. David Murray
So you’ve heard a sermon and you’re not happy. You feel the preacher got it badly wrong in either his interpretation, his words, his manner, his length, his whatever.
Well, I’m not going to tell you exactly what words to use. I’m simply going to give you ten questions to ask that I hope will produce the right words and the right way to say them should you ever have to offer criticism to a preacher.
1. Have I understood him correctly? Give the preacher the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself, “Am I putting the worst possible construction on this?” Perhaps check with your husband or wife, “Did I hear this correctly…?”
2. Have I given this enough time? It’s rarely wise or helpful to immediately react to what is preached. Your passions will be high, but so will the preacher’s. Not a good recipe.
3. Have I prayed about this? Have you taken time to ask “Lord show me if I’m right here. Show me if this is important enough to take further. Help me to see if this is primary or a secondary matter?”
4. Is this just personal preference or biblical principle? We all have our favorite truths and our favorite preaching styles. Is this about bible doctrines and biblical practice or just my tradition or preference?
5. Have I thought about the best time and way to communicate? Neither Sunday or Monday are good days to approach a pastor about problems with his preaching. On Sunday, his adrenaline is still pumping. On Monday, he’s flat as a pancake. Best not do this in public in front of others but in private. Do it in a calm, gentle, and loving manner. As I’ve learned, do it personally rather than in writing or by email.
6. Am I doing this out of the right motive? Is my love and respect obvious? If it is constructive, designed to serve the pastor, then criticism can be incredibly helpful.
7. Am I focused or just spraying pellets? Never say, “And while we’re at it, that sermon last year….and here’s another thing…”
8. Have I considered the possibility that I may be one of many others doing the same? You may be the straw that breaks the preacher’s back.
9. Am I prepared to listen to his explanation and concede I was wrong? Are you genuinely open to be corrected yourself?
10. Is it in the context of previously expressed appreciation? It’s so much easier to listen to criticism when you know the person has your good at heart and wants you to thrive and prosper. The repeated critic can be much more easily ignored or dismissed.