I often tell young preachers that if there is only one person in the room that believes what they are preaching please let it be them. Those called to preach must root themselves in their identity in Christ, the bedrock of their calling, and the grace God gives in the preaching event. Why is this important? Because often you may have people who will be encouraged by what you say and people that will be irritated by what you say – and many times it will be over the same part of your message. So are you to feel encouraged or discouraged? Let me give you real examples of notes sent to me after I’ve preached:
Critique #1: I want you to know that I was ashamed that my pastor only spoke about his gratitude for those who’d given their lives for freedom but didn’t dedicate the entire service to our great nation! I’ve served in the armed forces for most of my life and am astounded that as a church in America we didn’t say the pledge of allegiance or even sing the National Anthem in today’s service! Don’t you know that if it weren’t for America the church wouldn’t be here?
Compliment #1: Yancey, thank you so much for using the Memorial Day as an opportunity say that while you are grateful for the sacrifice men and women have made in the name of freedom, you are also grateful that the Kingdom of God supersedes any one nation. As an Australian citizen who attends CCCC, it made me glad to know that my local church isn’t given to one nation over another but comprised of people from all nations who submit to Christ as their ultimate leader. Thank you for being Kingdom-minded.
Critique #2: My constructive comment is that I feel you mocked suicide in the first part of your message. I lost my mother to suicide years ago and my sister, which struggles with depression herself, was in the audience and she didn’t made it past the first five minutes of your comments.
Compliment #2: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for addressing suicide today in such a pastoral manner. My husband killed himself a few months ago and I was so ministered to by what you said in the first part of your message. I had tears streaming down my face. I am so grateful for what I heard from you Pastor Yancey. It’s exactly what I need to hear. Again, thank you!!!
Critique #3: Can you preach on something more than the Gospel? You are an amazing preacher who I know is well-equipped to give us the meat of the Word (you’ve done it before). However, it seems that every time you preach at some point you bring it to Jesus. Listen, I love Jesus like the next person but can’t you move beyond just Jesus and the Cross? Some of us more mature believers need to feast on more than milk. I might have to go somewhere else if I can find better preaching.
Compliment #3: Thank you for constantly preaching the Gospel and teaching me to not only preach it to myself but to be equipped to give it out to a world without hope and to fellow Christ-followers who need constant reminders so it gets deep into our DNA …I am blessed personally, my marriage is strengthened as I learn to give grace and forgiveness quickly and consistently, and to ultimately look to God to meet my needs rather than putting that burden on my husband. And all this leaves me intensely hungry for more – more of Him! Thanks for being gospel-centered AND helping me see that I need to be gospel-centered as well!
Compliment #4: I like your new haircut. Very clean cut.
Critique #4: I can’t stand your haircut. Too clean cut. Go back to your old one.
Okay, that last one didn’t have to do with the message but, like the others, were real responses (no kidding). Now, I’m sure every pastor could post his own compliments and critiques but the question is what do you do with them? I believe there’s something to learn in every critique and every compliment – about you, what you preach, or the people you shepherd. They shouldn’t be dismissed but also one must be careful not to automatically take them to heart as if they were biblical truth. It’s not unusual for the things you say that make people mad will be the very same things other people are blessed by. This doesn’t mean we’re above reprimand for careless words in the pulpit. Quite the contrary (cf., James 3:1). But, as they say in baseball, wins and losses are going to come every season so don’t get too high with compliment or too low with critique. Let them be reminders to you, once again, that if there’s only one person who believes in what you’re preaching, please let it be you.
Honor God, preach his Word, and have a decent haircut.