I have been preaching the amazing Word of God for over 25 years and still love doing it. During that time, I have preached many sermons, some of which went off very well, others that were fairly good and many that failed badly (at least that’s what I think!). In this article, I want to focus on the sermons that didn’t do too well. At such times when I have known that the sermon didn’t go off well, I used to look for excuses to justify a bad presentation. Here are some of the excuses I have given.
1) The Worship was bad
Our church has an excellent worship team but it was the worship team that usually got the blame when the sermon wasn’t effective. Of course, I didn’t tell them that, but within me I used that excuse to feel better. Granted, sometimes the worship may not flow too well and that can well have a bearing on the minds of people and the preacher. However, I have now realized that an effective sermon is my responsibility, irrespective of how good or bad the worship experience is.
2) There were too many distractions
There will always be distractions in a service. People moving, (some even leaving during the sermon!), some looking bored, maybe a few playing with iPads or iPhones, crying babies, ushers running to handle an emergency and worst of all, someone sleeping right under your nose! It’s quite human to get affected by such distractions and crash the sermon halfway through! God has however been showing me that it’s far better to focus on the majority that are listening intently, than to let the distractions of a small group affect me. It’s not easy, but I’m doing better.
Illustration: I remember a guest preacher who came to another Church I was pastoring in, many years ago. As soon as he began his sermon, a strong gust of wind blew into the church and a door that had been removed off its hinges and kept leaning against a wall, came crashing down with a loud bang! Talk about distractions!! The entire congregation was distracted. Some probably thought that a bomb had gone off! The guest preacher looked sideways at the fallen door and obviously being a master at handling such distractions said, “I heard that this Church had a lot of power in it. But I never dreamt that you had the power to actually make doors come crashing down!!”. The crowd loved his response and he had a captive audience thereon as he moved into his sermon as if nothing had happened. He preached well too!
3) The sermon plan went bad
At times, technical problems do happen, like PowerPoint presentations not coming on (or maybe not coming on at the right time), The projector not working or the Scripture reader’s microphone going dead or maybe even the wrong scripture being read! A few times I have had the PowerPoint slide coming on, before the actual Point was made in the sermon!! I’m sure there are many more things you can think of or have actually experienced. (By the way, although mistakes do happen sometimes, our media team does an efficient job week after week).
4) I didn’t have enough time
Yes, this has happened on a number of occasions, particularly when a service has a special emphasis, with videos, special songs, testimonies etc. In our church the sermon usually lasts 35-40 minutes and a preacher prepares with that time frame in mind. Therefore, it’s easy to get upset when the sermon time gets cut down to maybe 20-25 minutes and thus get the sermon tied into knots. However, I have realized that even though the sermon time may get cut down, it cannot be an excuse to preach a poor sermon! Sure, adjustments have to be made, but we have to be prepared to make the adjustments in a practical way. Thankfully, the Lord’s help is always available.
It is a comfort to know that even under difficult circumstances, the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the help God gives will make our sermons speak into lives. (This is not an excuse however for poor preparation).
Therefore, whatever works against us, let’s realize that when we walk up to the pulpit, we, and nobody and nothing else is responsible for the effective ministry of the Word to a hungry congregation. Let us therefore prayerfully carry God’s anointing, authority and wisdom to rise above all obstacles. We will then be able to inspire and challenge people for the week ahead of them. One thing is certain, I no longer place the blame elsewhere if I preach badly!
(Maybe you have had similar struggles or others not mentioned here. I would love to know how you handled them.)
May the Lord bless your preaching ministry.