My Musings

The Preaching Enterprise
Part I: Compliments and Criticisms

The Preaching Enterprise <br>Part I:  Compliments and Criticisms

Troy, a 4 or 5 year old toe-headed boy decked out in his Sunday best, was watching people greet me after I preached a passionate try-out sermon. It was 2011 and I was candidating for the position of minister at Troy’s church. He heard many kind comments coming my way and when his turn came, he reached out his hand and addressed me thusly; “I really liked your . . . ”

Allow me to pause here. Put yourself in my shoes and take a guess at how Troy finished that sentence. A hint is concealed above but you’ll never get it if you don’t read on.

Troy’s sincerity and immeasurable cuteness was obvious to all and he had everyone’s full attention when he shook the hand of the visiting preacher and offered his response.

Have you guessed yet?

Give up? Okay, in place of the expected word “talk” or “sermon” came the word “shoes.”

What impressed this adorable young man was not my sermon so he didn’t fake it. Troy was wearing brand new shoes to church and he was proud of them. I think he thought mine looked like his. He heard a sermon that probably made little sense to him but he still managed to find a point of common ground on which to connect with me and offer encouragement.

Actually, responses like his are not as rare as you might think. If you pooled all the compliments and criticisms of the content of my sermons over the last 23 years and compared their number with all the compliments and criticisms of my facial hair, clothing (top to bottom), glasses, hair style and other details regarding my appearance as a preacher, I think the latter group might just win. Moreover, it is the latter group of superficial comments that I tend to remember more. Okay, I’m human. My one saving grace may be that the former group (remarks on content) tend to be more complementary than the latter group.


Rather than belabor the point or get preachy, let me just say that I hope Troy becomes a preacher someday. His ability to find common ground to encourage others will make him a good one. And we need good ones badly!

As for sermon compliments and criticisms, they are welcome. They tend to reveal a few essentials in the preaching enterprise, namely:

  1. That some listening did take place.
  2. That the sermon mattered to someone.
  3. That the preacher knows he is not alone in the pulpit.

Once a preacher gets past the terror of speaking to large groups, he can eventually move to the other extreme and forget (if not reminded) point #3 above. Preaching is a community enterprise.

It is easy to prefer compliments to criticisms but experience has taught me that there is something worse than both, namely; no response at all. Of course, the most important response is the one we make, as preachers and hearers alike, to God.

Christian preaching is rooted entirely in God’s truth and love. Good preachers stand behind God in the pulpit. They do not represent themselves. Politicians and pundits may speak for themselves or parties but the preacher speaks for God. He must be a diligent student and practitioner of God’s love and word. He is nothing in the pulpit without his Bible.


Post Script: I serve with the Lewiston Church of Christ as a preaching minister. We post our sermons on-line and you are welcome to go check out the options at our site (scroll down for the most recent recordings): Sermons


About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Add a Comment