Here is the second installment of my evaluation notes from a recent coaching session with a friend about his preaching (see Part 1 here). Don’t let the amount of coaching specifics fool you. While there are definitely things I believe my friend can work on, he is a gifted speaker/teacher and I look forward to see how his preaching continues to grow. With that said, I hope some of this advice and my literal notes accompanying it can serve other preachers as well:
Reduce the size of your preaching text.
If you struggle with giving too much info, reduce the size of the text you want to preach from. This allows you to still lean in to your style of giving your listeners a lot of information but restricts the “field” in which you are allowed to wander.
Don’t preach three different sermons.
Work to one Big Idea.
You have the burden of brilliance which means while you have a thousand things that intersect the heart of your message not all those things are things in which your listener sees the connection. Your sermon is a collection of little sermonettes – separate “starts, middles, and ends” dotting your mega-message (1 hr.). I’m not asking you to dumb it down but to cut it down. You have probably 3-4 great shorter messages than a not-so-great long message. Simplifying your message to one idea, truth, or action will help your audience both track with what you’re saying and better internalize your message for application. Again, you are too smart for your own good. You will do more with less!
Answer the question:
What do you want the listener to do with your talk?
I’m not too sure I knew what you wanted me to do with your message. Toward your conclusion about being renewed by God you said, “Some of you have been renewed. Others are waiting to be renewed. So don’t judge them but be thankful you have and use your renewal for worship.” So, as the listener, is my application of this talk to simply wait until something happens to me? It seemed like the conclusion might better have been geared toward a next step for your listener like, “Believe the gospel,” or “here are some ways to take joy in that Jesus has performed for us.” This would have been attached to your Big Idea.
Try not to introduce new ideas or texts in your conclusion.
You want your congregants to be reinforced in what you spent fifty minutes talking to them about, not taken to another place where they essentially forget (or don’t need) to reflect upon your sermon. This reminds me of another piece of advice…
When you tell people you’re closing, actually close.
You said you were closing and went an additional ten more minutes. You actually preached another mini-sermon complete with an entirely new text and exposition. This just tells people either you don’t know how to end a sermon or you’re unable to do it. It also gives them permission to “check out” of your talk if you go longer than four to five minutes.