3 Hidden Principles I Learned from Unwanted Sermon Criticism

Many times we read the experts when it comes to sermon crafting and sermon delivery but sometimes I feel that we need to take a step back and listen to the people who hear us week in and week out.


As a young preacher I hear advice all the time. “well just do this or that, make sure you do this, make sure you do that”

I know none of us appreciate unsolicited, mean-spirited criticism, but we do need to hear people out.

I have come across a few principles, not from experts of communication or preaching, but just people who listen to it week in and week out that I want to share with you.

1. “Keep it Short”

This is an unpopular point with many preachers.  We like to justify long sermon times by saying “well we keep them engaged, or they should stay interested by God’s word.” The fact is long sermon times push on the limits of adult attention span and in turn are not as effective as they can be. Now I will not say “so and so  length is too long so keep it under this time frame” but we should be careful as we craft messages to be as clear as possible. If it can be said in 100 words why go on for 1000?

2. “Tell More Jokes”

I can tell you when someone told me this I was pretty irritated. I mean I spent 15 hours crafting a message for you, it was full of story and relevant illustrations. I even generated a few laughs from the audience. But then someone told me, “hey good message but you should tell more jokes. I might not completely agree with filling a message with jokes, but the principle here is to be more relatable, and humor is one way to that end.

3. “Give Me More of the Bible”

When I am told this I am usually floored. I mean I take the time to plan out a series based on a Scripture or a set of Scriptures. I take the time to find relevant passages for that week’s message and then someone says, “Hey you needed more Scripture, or you should have used this passage.” I can say that the principle here is that people thirst for God’s word so give it to them. Do not shy away from the Bible to try to be relevant or whatever. ‘

These three things have all been said to me by well-meaning hearers of my sermons and each one has an underlying principle beneath it.

Will you learn with your people with me as well?

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Rise Church in Marion, Oh. He is married to his awesome wife Jenna and they have one daughter Aryella.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.


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