Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Preaching Truisms (1)

I have often thought about compiling a list of truisms about preachers and preaching. I don't want them to sound unkind or cynical, but rather reflect the common condition. One of my advantages over the last few years has been a wider exposure to other people's views of preaching and these insights need to be incorporated. But I reckon on just enough self-awareness to be able to apply these to myself.

So what is the first truism? 1. Most preachers regard themselves as above average. Most of us who preach regularly know we are not five-star preachers, but we still have a pretty healthy regard for our ability. In a survey of preachers conducted by a professor friend of mine, all responded that preaching was one of their main gifts. However, this was not evident when listening to many of them!

By definition average denotes that some fall below as well as above in gifting. Recognizing this fact, and the possibility that we might even be below average, is the first step to developing God's gift further. We should reflect humbly that improvement is always possible and often needed! The applause of well-meaning people should never allow us to exaggerate the status quo.

I guess you can argue that preachers need some self-assurance to undertake the calling (which God promises) but honest self-assessment is too often awol. Do you think this is a fair observation?


Ryan Donoho said...

Yes, I agree with you. Honest evaluation and feedback is helpful. Practicing Christian niceness and "Good Job Pastor" isn't helpful.

Anonymous said...

I grow weary of the enterprise of "evaluating" preachers as if we are evaluating musical talent, athletic ability or gourmet cooking. Obviously, there are many who can "improve" their basic rhetorical skills, but isn't there something more deeply profound in preaching? How does one "evaluate" the work of God's Spirit? Would Moses have received a good "evaluation"? What about some of the Minor Prophets? Who creates and monitors and "grades" the evaluation? Recently I heard Tim Keller speak at a conference in the area. Dr. Keller violates many of the rules of preaching. Yet, his congregation is exploding and consistently engaged. Perhaps the ultimate evaluator should be the Spirit herself! And an additional thought....might there be such a thing as "contextual evaluation"? One might be considered brilliant in one context and inferior in another??????? So, how do I evaluate myself? After 35 years of preaching, I still have a long way to go....Hopefully, I've improved my grade to a C- by now!