How Does Congregational Response Affect Sermon Evaluation?

How does congregational response affect sermon evaluation when preachers are called of God to speak a word “in season and out of season” to the people of God? (2 Timothy 4:2) This kind of preaching implies that sometimes the people will be encouraged and love to hear the message that the preacher has been called to give. It also means that sometimes the people will not wish to hear the correction that comes from God through the message.

It is sometimes said by preachers, “You can shout at the football game, why can’t you shout here!” Well, a football game is not an adequate metaphor for worship. They are doing two different things. In addition, sometimes shouting is simply not the right response to the message. No congregational response alone cannot be an adequate sermon evaluation metric. This does not mean, however, that congregational response should be totally ignored and belittled as unimportant. The congregation’s response should be factored into our sermon evaluation.

Sermon Evaluation and Congregational Shouting

Sermon Evaluation is Not Only Congregation's ResponseAnother point to keep in mind is that the congregations response is not necessarily a one dimensional “shouting” or “rejoicing.” Sometimes the congregation’s response to the word that has been presented is simply a fervent “What Shall I do to be saved?” Sometimes the congregation’s response to the word is best measured by their changed life during the week. There is much too much, in my estimation, made out of the visible and aural response of the congregation. These things are cultural! Stop condemning the people for shouting or their lack of shouting. It is cultural chauvinism and unproductive to do such things.

But no, an adequate evaluation of the effectiveness of the sermon will include an evaluation of the theological content of the sermon. Did I preach a theologically and Biblically sound message? Go back to the Bible and test your words by it. After that, determine as best you can if it is what is needed by the people. Is the correction you providing really from God or from you? Is the problem you are addressing really a problem that is prevalent in the congregation? Was there another aspect of the text that we could have addressed that was more needed by the congregation? Ask these kinds of questions in your sermon evaluation.

Next, you should determine, as best you can, whether change is really happening in your congregation. Church is not simply a party where we have the visible manifestations of “getting happy” week by week without seeing any real change. Are the people changing?

Are You Changing For The Better?

And an even more important aspect of this evaluation is the question: Are You Changing? One of my former pastors used to always pray at the end of every sermon:

Lord, save us by the same message that we preach to others.

If the message is vitally needed by your congregation…and you are a member of the congregation…and change is the point…then if you are not changing more into the likeness of Jesus Christ then there is something vitally wrong with your preaching!

In summary, go to the congregation and look at the congregation to make sure that your sermons are hitting the mark. And always remember that you are a part of your congregation as well. don’t be so arrogant as to think that you are not needing some of the same changes that you feel God has called your people. An adequate sermon evaluation method will incorporate all of these aspects.

Comments

comments

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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14 comments on “How Does Congregational Response Affect Sermon Evaluation?
  1. David A. Jones says:

    Since I am not a “whooper,” I learned early on not to depend upon a huge emotional response from the congregation, even though that sometimes happens anyway. The most effective sermons I have preached were those which addressed a crisis situation in the church. Members came up to me after the service in tears,stating that the message had altered their planned course of action. Not every message will result in that kind of immediate change, but you are correct in stating that positive change in the overall life of the community is a far better barometer of effective preaching.

  2. Pastor Williamson says:

    My husband says I am harder on myself than anyone else when it comes to evaluating my sermons. Many times I do not hear an emotional response but later learn that some took away things that allowed them to look at their situation differently. So the message was on of encouragement. I have not always preached messages of encouragement. It was a growth process for me and the congregation were the recipients.

  3. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Pastor Williamson, Yes we need to always keep in mind that if we are looking at congregational change we are looking for the long haul…and we will often never the know the effectiveness of a sermon. I have had people come up to me and talk about how God still uses a sermon I preached years ago to bless the individual.

    Pastor Jones, as you note..there are many more ways to express emotion than just “shouting the church…” and the tear filled face of one who has been changed is worth more than a church full of shouters who have not been changed…

  4. Pastor Frederick D. Harris says:

    Very needful topic: There are at times I’ve felted for my part, that my delivery or that the message was inadequate after preaching a sermon; then someone from the congregation comes along and gives me a positive response. There are other times that I’ve felt pleased with the response as well as how it was presented. That’s when I’m reminded that pride in one self or ones own ability is dangerous… I agree with you in principle, that after prayer and preparation, if the message is needful; purposeful and relevant to your congregation, the only one who is really qualified to evaluate the message is the Lord. With that said, I believe that the preached word should be to please the Lord in feeding His sheep; His lambs…

  5. James says:

    I think it can be difficult to evaluate your preaching when you are a guest speaker. Ultimately God is the judge on the effectiveness of the sermons but is there a basic metric that a preacher can use?

  6. Pastor Wendell L. Jackson, M.Div. says:

    The article is good. Change in the message giver as well as the congregation, should be expected. The value of a good sermon and the preparation of same is that it hits the giver of the message before it hits the congregation. The value of being a preacher is in doing the hermeneutical and homiletical work, somehow God and the Word is working on you(the preparer). Sometimes, a sign that a message has hit it’s mark, is when the congregation is deafly silent. Sometimes a sign that your messages, have hit their mark, is when the trouble makers in a congregation give you the cold shoulder. An even greater sign that your messages hit their mark, is when a movement to get rid of you is developed… Yes much can be said about the congregation’s response to your message…. However at the end of the day…. it’s between God and the hearers of the Word, how effective your message is. Keep studying, praying, preparing, and preaching. I read somewhere it takes 10,000 hours of doing a thing, for you to become adequate at it. It takes a lifetime of preaching to become adequate, and none of us ever perfect it. As for the whoopers, I like the whoop, I admire those who can deliver a sound Word and give us some whoop too(Bishop Noel Jones}. However God does not give us all to deliver that way, and some of us arent in the physical shape to even try. Congregations like all things in this society are cultural in their responses, some shout, some just sit and listen. The preacher should pore his heart in the study, prayer and preparation of the message; deliver it with all his/her heart. In the end close, invite people to Christ, give the benediction. Go eat and go to sleep!

  7. Early on I stood in awe of the power and spirit of those dynamic preachers who could “connect the dots”. My goal, even before college, was to master thier skill at taking a text from divine principle to life changeing practicality. For me, it was the way they could make the gospel come alive, make true holiness seem possible and talk so about Jesus that His presence became this side of tangable. Over the years my ‘style’ has changed but my prayer remains the same. “Lord,through me today,make your word meaningful,harmonize my spirit with Yours, and may this preacher and these people “connect the dots” to our good and Your Glory.
    Shout or No Shout Amen.

  8. Oscar Gunn says:

    I’m not what you would call a preacher, but I will speak a word for the master when the opportunity presents itself. I’ve studied and prayed for weeks asking the Holy Spirit to show me what I should speak about and to help me to live what I speak. The congregation is my home church and they expect a good word, or they will talk about you. But God has blessed my few times up and even though they didn’t whoop and holler, the amens were good. I try to present the message in the same way that I would like to hear it and afterwards I have been congratulated and patted on the back and I have to be very humble about that so I won’t get confused about whom the praises go to. I wish I had the skills of a lot of you and the knowledge to break a text down and get a whole message out of it, but I’m not there yet. This is all that I can add to this subject.

  9. Pastor James Owens says:

    Hello Everybody! I agree we should stop trying to earn amen’s from people and just preach the word. If the word is truly preached, there will be a response that is deeper than an amen. I would rather hear a What must I do to be saved response.

  10. Pastor Frederick D. Harris says:

    The answer to the question: Is there a basic metric that a preacher can use? (Yes) There are so many methods; formulas and practices than you can shake a stick at. I’ve learned the your best teacher is the Holy Spirit and that He will not only Justify you, but qualify you. He the Holy Spirit will cause you also to join youeself with someone i.e. Seminary an Elder or mentor to help guide and develop you in your preaching ministry that you may be successful in preaching His word. Bro. Sherman Cox is one who has a ministry that does that…

  11. Rev. Charlie Roberson says:

    Before I accepted my calling and being young and immature in the word I would listen at various preachers teach or preach the word and each individual was different. I now realize that each individual possess a uniqueness that God saw that he could use but it was up to the person to grow his own style with proper study, preparation, and developing.And I also believe that when we are God’s mouth piece we should want to give our very best to God’s people. God should get the glory and every message is not for every one in attendance, If we would pray,prepare, and preach,that’s the water and let God give the increase that’s the saving then the churches would be packed. Preaching now seems to have become entertainment instead of God’s way to save the lost because we preach for accollades instead of change. The main goal should be to preach the word and keep the message straight. Preach Jesus!!

  12. Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. says:

    Hello, Pastor Cox,

    Very interesting topic. Although, I, strongly believe that the Preaching of the Word of God is central in the worship experience, I’m just as adament about the teaching ministry that takes place through the week. For the believer the teaching and preaching of God’s Word goes hand in hand as seen in Acts 2, but, we know that it’s the foolishness of Preaching the Word of God that compels the non-believer to make a decission to accept Jesus as Lord of their life. Jesus gave the disciples and us the command to make disciples and to teach them what He taught them/us. When people have been taught the Word of God they know how to respond to the Preached Word of God. As under-shepherds we are required to know those God has entrusted us with therefore we are to know their pains as well as their desires and then we take all this to God in prayer and He directs us so that not only the pew is fed a healty and wholesome diet but we as well. Blessings on you my dear brother and may God continue to work in and through you.

  13. Rev.Dr. Woba James says:

    Hello People of God

    A very good thought that is presented. I do really appreciate Pastor for giving this inside to us.

    Well, as preachers we always need to remember that God expect our words are being anointed by His authority and power, and for that we all need the power of prayer and preacher’s presentation should always power point presentation.

  14. Pastor Walters says:

    I laughed out loud as I read and enjoyed this article and others related to it. I find many preachers are afraid to preach the Word because they really do not want to handle the Word. As preacher/teacher/pastors who truly understand their mandate and calling in this area of ministry, handling the Word requires responding to the Word personally before we step into that pulpit. Our sermons should produce in our own lives the “response” we would expect from those listening to it as it comes out of our mouths. Haddon Robinson once remarked that often the best sermons can be likened to a single slice of quality bread spread with a small amount of jam. Whether it is cornbread or an English muffin is a matter of cultural preference, but the grains must always be harvested from the Word of God with no additives or fillers that are detrimental to spiritual growth.

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Revised Common Lectionary
Proper 14 (February 26, 2017)
  • OT: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
  • Psalm: Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b
  • Epistle: Romans 10:5-15
  • Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
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