Evaluation isn’t a bad word at my church. Indeed, we do it often. It helps us avoid repeating the same mistakes and raises the level of excellence in future ministry endeavors. One of the areas we evaluate with regularity is preaching. For example, after the first of three services I meet with a handful of our elders to hear from them about the good, the bad and the ugly in my sermon. Don’t worry. It’s not a firing squad but a bunch of brothers who are familiar with the demands and desires of preaching. There isn’t one thing said both to encourage or correct in me that they haven’t heard about their own sermons. Having that weekly evaluation is a good and healthy thing for any preacher.
Here’s another good and healthy thing: watch yourself preach.
It’s hard to do. It can be very painful because we tend to be harder on ourselves in self-evaluation. Frankly, I’ve found myself slipping into bits of depression (using that term mildly) after watching a few sermons on the tube. But make no mistake, there are fewer things I’ve found as helpful in becoming a better preacher than watching myself preach!
Most of the time the phrase ‘perception is reality’ holds true. In preachers this often isn’t the case. We tend to perceive ourselves and our preaching in ways that don’t hold to the reality that everyone else in the pews know. We don’t think we speak that fast. We do. We don’t believe our gestures are distracting. They are. We know our sermons generally flow well in thought and arrangement. They don’t. Sometimes the gap between the pulpit and the pew in what connects and what doesn’t is greater than we think. The truth is we can be fairly blind to it all. That’s why I would encourage every pastor to regularly watch himself preach.
You need you to see you.
Watching yourself preach helps you to witness what you can’t witness any other way. It will either confirm your thoughts about your preaching or (and for me is often the case) contradict them. It may reveal a different story about…
- How fast or slow you speak.
- Helpful or distracting gestures.
- Good or poor posture.
- The clarity of your messages.
- The emotional flow of your sermons.
The list goes on and on. It’s also wise to remember a baseball maxim: don’t get too high in your highs or get too low in your lows. In other words, don’t turn in your two-weeks notice when you see things in the video that make you cringe or sick to your stomach. Remember that evaluation is the point of watching yourself. You do this to grow as a preacher. On the converse, don’t watch your video thinking, “Wow! I wonder why the top five megachurches in the country haven’t called me yet?” Don’t worry. Preach long enough and you’ll have your days when you feel like you didn’t get out of the batter’s box preaching-wise. Plus, we must always be mindful that the Holy Spirit is ultimately the arbiter and agency of a real sermon.
So take a chance. Video and watch yourself preaching. Do this with great regularity. Even after a couple decades of preaching I still believe it’s one of the best tools I have for my personal growth as a preacher. Do it! You and your church will be better because of it.