Monday, August 26, 2013

The Better Encouragement

A long time ago in a land far away a lady heard a not-so-good sermon.  As she and her friend exited the church building, her friend shook the hand of the preacher and said "Good sermon." 

Later that day the lady asked her friend "You thought it was a good sermon?  I did not." 

He nodded in agreement.  "Neither did I." 

The lady's mouth dropped open "Then why did you say that to the preacher?!" 

He thought for a minute.  "I don't know...that's what you say to preachers!"

I think of that story when someone says "good sermon" to me:).  Don't get me wrong:  It's encouraging when folks are kind and generous, but 'good sermon' is akin to the automaton response of 'fine' to 'How was your day?'  Maybe the sermon was good or the day fine, but the response makes it hard to know.

It's not that preachers want praise or a high five or fist bump.  We don't write sermons to make you feel good or happy or mad.  We want our sermons to be faithful to God.  We want to be faithful to the text.  We want to guided by the Holy Spirit.  We want to give glory to God!  And sometimes, quite frankly, the whole process is like a wrestling match with God (see Jacob:  Old Testament).  We come away having encountered God (thanks be to God), but not without a limp.

Most preachers would rather hear "I'd like to talk with you about the challenge you suggested for our congregation" or "I encountered God this morning.  Can you meet with me this week to talk about it?" or "Thanks for reminding us of God's promises" or "I've been praying about God's call on my life.  God was nudging me during the service.  Can we talk?" or even "I don't know if I agree with x.  Can I call you tomorrow to discuss?"  These responses help us know you are engaged in worship. 

Perhaps the best encouragement I've received is at Scottsville Baptist.  One of church members emails me every Monday morning to give specific encouragement.  I don't think this person knows how much these Monday musings mean to me.  Even if the email is brief, it packs a punch with detail.  Sometimes reflections are shared.  Other Mondays it is specific encouragement to me personally.  Other times he/she tells me about conversations with friends based on what was gleaned from worship.  Sometimes he/she shares about hardships.  It's different every week, but it's always specific.

I am grateful for that encouragement and giving preachers specific personal encouragement is kind, but there's actually a better way:  Nationals tickets!  Cupcakes! 

I KID.  

The better encouragement is sharing how you are growing in Christ.  The better encouragement is seeking God in worship.  The better encouragement is being faithful to God's call.  The better encouragement is seeking ways to engage God's mission and talking to your preacher about it.  The better encouragement is to let your preacher know how to pray for you.  There are others.

You are probably doing these things already (growing, being faithful, engaging God's mission, etc.) so consider challenging yourself to encourage the preacher by sharing with him/her on Sunday.  


  1. They are calling it a sermon though. As a woman who sometimes gets to preach, I have people thanking me by saying "nice speech." But that is a whole other topic.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I am blessed to serve this congregation. Blessings on your ministry.

  2. Good word! When someone says, "God spoke to me today through your message" ask them what God said and what they are going to do about it?

    1. Thanks Tony. What great questions. Thanks for helping me!