"Good job." It is a common, polite response by members as they walk out the door of a worship service and shake the preacher's hand. Preachers are smart enough to know that by this response that they have not necessarily hit a "home run." Some people are sincere, some are just being polite. Some are really impacted, but do not know how or feel it necessary to expand.
For those who pass preachers by and say, "Good job," know that this too is appreciated. After all, the clearest sign of a "dud" of a sermon is where no such platitude or perfunctory response is given. Then you know, uh oh, what I was feeling was right--I did not adequately and powerfully communicate God's word today. So, "good job," or "good sermon" is at least acknowledgment that you did a passable job and the whole church is not hacked off at something that you said.
But there are types of feedback that preachers most especially appreciate. I will give you three from some kind comments that I received today:
- "I felt God/the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through you today." I had a conversation with a woman today who felt that way, which is always humbling. It really is. Then she said what I have always believed, that preaching is a God act, and that the Holy Spirit interacts through this message in a person's life in ways that go beyond a preacher could have possibly known or necessarily intended.
People will often speak of how they felt you were preaching directly to them, that you were somehow hanging out in their house that week, crafting a message just for them. Of course, because I seek to pray throughout the week and before and during the message itself, it is possible that God is drawing together material in the composition process, as well as the delivery process to impact people for Christ.
- Specific feedback about some particular element, passage, point, story, etc., that spoke to them. This is helpful because it shows that they are going beyond a polite response to truly having been impacted by some portion of the sermon. And when we receive this type of positive feedback about what impacts people, then we learn to do this more often, improving our sermon's impact with God's help.
- Feedback that shows that a person's understands what you are trying to do in your sermons on a deeper level--your style, your aims, your goals, your techniques, etc. For instance, this morning a man took the time to tell me that he appreciated my statement that I made that technology was neither good nor evil, but was what one did with it. As he was a technology guy, he appreciated that. Then he began to tell me how he liked how my sermons had a strong biblical message, then strong cultural analysis/application, that spoke in an understandable way. That is exactly my attempted method, which was great to hear someone understand and experience.
Then he pointed out things like how I did not assume biblical knowledge in the hearers, and did not jump around all over the place in quoting Bible verses, which would be difficult and hard for them to follow. This person was a relatively new Christian, and so appreciated this approach. Again, because I always seek to look through the lens of both seekers and longtime Christians in my sermon prep, it was great that this was evident to him.
Preaching is indeed a God-event, in which the Spirit interacts in the preaching of his word. Let us never forget this!
To the preacher types--what type of feedback is uplifting for you? To the members, how do you seek to uplift your preacher and ministers?