A preacher’s view of his own messages can be an emotional roller–coaster ride driven by his moods and the responses of the congregation. We dare not evaluate ourselves by measurable results such as increased attendance or new members joining the church. My father was once so moved by a child’s intense listening that he questioned her about what she found so important. She responded, ‘I was trying to figure out if you had shaved this morning.
We must regularly evaluate our preaching to know if we are growing as preachers. Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) said to his ministerial students, ‘I give you the motto, ‘Go forward.’ Go forward in personal attainments, forward in gifts and in grace, forward in fitness for the work, and forward in conformity to the image of Jesus.’ He went on to say, ‘If there be any brother here who thinks he can preach as well as he should, I would advise him to leave off altogether.
A preacher needs to read some part of a book on preaching each month, more or less of it, to think about what he is saying and how his sermons might be made more lucid, interesting, warmer, more motivational, inspirational, convicting and glorifying to the Lord Jesus Christ – what a need to consider this awesome task, and what lasting fruit might come from every such endeavour. We can all improve as preachers. I have to feel that I am a growing preacher, and test such convictions by hearing other men I admire whose ministry is a consistent blessing to me, and reading what they say about preaching. So it is that these words of my dear friend Joel Beeke have searched and encouraged me. They are fascinating, and I particularly liked them because they were not crushing words, rather sensible, winsome and practical. Thank God for them.
I remember in seminary when I had to take a preaching class. I stood before two Pastors, family and friends who “listened” to me preach. Afterwards, I was told I did well and made much of Jesus. I was also told areas of improvement based on the opinion of those who listened to my sermon. A few of my friends also watched the sermon online, and gave their thoughtful feedback and encouragement. Evaluating one’s sermons can be nerve wracking. Did I preach just the Word or did I mix my opinion with the biblical text? Did I preach the point of the passage as the overall point of the sermon? Preaching can lead one to be incredibly introspective and lose sight of the goal of all true biblical teaching which is to make the point of the biblical text the point of the sermon and as the great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, make a beeline to the Cross. While that advice has served me well whether I am speaking on an internet radio, podcast, to a group of men or behind a pulpit preaching and teaching, I’ve learned that evaluating one’s sermon (and or allowing others to do so) can be a helpful exercise in humility. I was reminded of this experience as I read How To Evaluate Sermons by Joel R. Beeke. Before I get to the book, I find it ironic I am evaluating a book about evaluating sermons that itself evaluated me and challenged me. I wanted to point that out in case the irony of this was lost on my readers. Joel Beeke is one of my favorite authors. I think I’ve read a dozen of his books and I truly enjoy the way he writes. One of the reasons for this is he really gets you thinking and evaluating your life in light of the Cross. In How to Evaluate Sermons, he walks through 1st Corinthians 3:5–15 thus assisting the preacher/teacher to see their utter need for Jesus. In fact, I would contend until the preacher/teacher has seen the sheer enormity of the task of preaching and the need to rely on Christ, they are not fit to preach the Word. That may sound too strong and even overly harsh, however, I believe it nonetheless because of personal experience. Preachers need to feel a deep sense of their need for Jesus and to be convicted deeply of their inadequacy. Otherwise, they will get comfortable and preach a watered down Gospel. It was said of the great Scottish preacher Robert Murray Mccheyne that he used to run up and down on the list of his many sins before he would preach. He wasn’t trying to be morbidly introspective; rather he was preparing his heart to proclaim God’s Word. As Spurgeon ascended the steps to the pulpit, he would pray silently for the Holy Spirit to help him preach the Word. I’ve personally found both approaches helpful and commend both of them. I have also found that spending quality time in the Word outside of writing or studying for ministry helpful as it helps me to not be so focused on my tasks. Furthermore, it prevents me from reading the Bible in a purely academic way instead humbly submitting to its truth. This has helped me in turn to call those who may listen to the Word and to share what it teaches. In that same way, Dr. Beeke challenges us to consider ourselves in light of Christ, to see our utter inadequacy, and to lean upon Christ and the means of the Holy Spirit in our preaching and teaching. While this book is specifically geared towards “evaluating sermons”, I think it has other valuable applications. Think of a blogger evaluating their blog through the paradigm that Beeke offers for sermons. If that were the case we would see an army of bloggers rise up as we are but even more so, who engage thoughtfully with the biblical text and seek to apply it to all of life. Whether you are a preacher, blogger, podcaster, or teacher, How to Evaluate Sermons will help you as it cuts through our emotional and intellectual confusion by providing a detailed objective checklist through which to evaluate our sermons. This book will be a means to challenge all who proclaim the Word to evaluate their approach and themselves in light of the Word they preach and to conform all the more to Scripture in order to reflect more of Jesus and less of themselves.
Total Price: £1.99