This better be good! Who of us hasn’t thought that just moments before the pastor gets up to speak? As one who got to preach numerous times before I actually became a pastor, it didn’t take long for me to realize that those in the pews have expectations. You have expectations. You expect your pastor or another speaker to entertain you at times. To make you laugh. To challenge you. To make you feel warm on the inside. To inspire you. To…
Most of you will never fully realize the work your pastor commits to the important task of preparing a sermon week after week. How could you? It’s consuming—even for someone who’s called to do this nearly every week. And that’s just the preparation. The delivery is another story—especially if your pastor is preaching multiple services. However, if you’re honest, you’d say that you have an expectation that your pastor will not just get a base hit each week with his message. You’re looking for a walk off home run. In fact, you’ll hear people say of a teacher or preacher at times, “He knocked it outta the park!” “He killed it!” We’ll even line up at the end of the service to convey those words personally with a pastor.
Unfortunately, each time you and I do this we’re setting our pastor up for failure. How? Because they’re human, and eventually they’ll begin to believe that’s the expectation every week. Now in fairness, should we expect a well-prepared message that’s biblical, gospel-centered, clear, relevant and applicable to our lives? Absolutely. But let’s guard against leading our pastor to believe the lie that they need to meet an expectation every week that we’ve placed on them but God hasn’t.
So, how do we overcome this? First, pray for your pastor in their preparation and delivery each week. Pray for their motives. Pray that they would not fall into the trap of believing that the measuring stick of success for their message is the amount of laughter or applause they receive. Rather, it’s being faithful to the text and seeking to honor Christ.
Second, as you prepare to listen to a message, ask God to help you examine your heart. Are you listening to be entertained? To laugh? To criticize? To pass time? If so, ask God to help you hear a word from Him, regardless of the speaker. Yes, even the student pastor who only gets to preach once or twice every three years can still deliver a word from God!
Finally, be discerning about the words you share with your pastor after their message. It’s certainly okay to compliment someone on their message, but guard against hyperbole. We’ve all done it: “That was the best sermon I’ve ever heard.” “Wow, that was amazing!” Was it really amazing? Chances are….not! Rather than superficial expressions, try this (if it’s true): “God is teaching or challenging me in this area of my life (and you fill in the blank) as a result of the message. Thank you.” Or “I believe God is asking me to pray about what He’d have me do as a result of this message.” These, and a number of other phrases put the focus on God and your growth in Christ-likeness, not your pastor. Try it. This is something your pastor longs to hear—even more than how good their message was.