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Never Say This to a Preacher After His Sermon!

I know you mean well and you probably just want to communicate your gratitude but will you do your pastor a favor and stop saying this after his sermons?

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Don’t worry you’re not the only one who says it, I hear it pretty much every Sunday.  It goes something like this:

“Pastor, I really enjoyed your sermon today.”

I usually smile and thank them for coming and listening but there’s something inside me that says, “ugh.”

Maybe this sounds picky and trivial but it’s not.

The truth is I did not preach that sermon for their enjoyment. I didn’t preach that sermon for my enjoyment either! So whether anyone enjoyed my sermon doesn’t tell me how good it was.

The goal of preaching isn’t to give people an enjoyable experience but rather to give them truth that can be applied to their lives!  I’ll admit there is a certain joy that comes along with truth but there is also often a discomfort.

The truth of God’s Word motivates me to preach! It motivates me to study when it’s uncomfortable, it drives me dig deeper into Scripture and let it shine the light of truth on my life before I begin to shine it on the lives of others.

This is a painful process!

It’s called conviction and repentance!

It’s painful because it reveals our flaws and mistakes. It shows us that we are often not the person we claim to be, it reveals deeper problems that lie silently below the surface.

This is what God’s Word does to me before I even get in the pulpit! It’s not an enjoyable experience but it does bring great joy in the end!

I think C.S.  Lewis captured this process best when he told the story of how Aslan peeled the dragon skin off of Edmund.

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.  You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place.  It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The goal of preaching God’s Word isn’t to give you an enjoyable experience but rather to peel your dragon skin!

The best sermons aren’t the most enjoyable sermons but rather those sermons that strike at the heart with the hammer and chisel of God’s Word!

The best preachers are those who can pull truth like darts from the pages of Scripture and deliver them with pinpoint accuracy, popping our inflated pride and bloated self-image!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The best preachers will always find that God’s Word must deal with their own heart first. They feel the grip of conviction in their own spirit long before they stand in the pulpit!

What is the proper response to a good sermon?

The next time you hear a sermon try saying one of these phrases below and I’m sure you’ll encourage the preacher.

  • Thank you for communicating God’s Word.
  • Thank you for helping me understand that passage better.
  • Thank you for enabling me to see my problems more clearly.
  • Thank you for showing me what to do.
  • Thank you for encouraging my spirit.
  • Thank you for blessing us.

Question: What other responses can you add?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • One I’m struggling with right now comes from some folks who came out of a really legalistic church. They were so starved and find grace not only a unique concept but a much-needed one. Anyway, the man is fond of saying, “You were great today.” I know he means well. I know what he is saying. But WOW! that really hits me hard. I thank him and try to deflect any further choking/gagging praise.

    • Don’t you think as this parishioner becomes more familiar with the meals of grace you serve that eventually he will be able to verbalize exactly what it is that touches him deeply? I guess it feels bad knowing that something we think is encouraging can actually be thought of as gagging.

      • I totally understand Anne what he is trying to say. Words fail him I know. I probably used the wrong word there but I was trying to “play” on what Caleb mentions. It is hard to receive and deflect praise at the same time. Thanks for your comment. I hope I didn’t offend you with my thoughts.

        • No Bill, I was not offended, but what if someone read your words and was? I liked your line, “It’s hard to receive and deflect praise at the same time.” I remember the first time I read how flattery is not a good thing in Proverbs and it surprised me.

    • Yes, that’s pretty much what this post is about. I try not to listen too much when people start telling me how amazing I was. Bill, maybe you can find a gracious way to refer him to my blog post.

    • DS

      In all of this I wonder to about people being appreciative of your preparation and delivery. I can appreciate that thought process as well as worrying about being praised instead of God

  • I appreciate this post. I have been guilty of saying what you’ve pointed out is not helpful in hearing. But the ones that really convict me, the sermons that feel as if someone tipped off the pastor on what I needed. Sometimes I feel like just saying “ouch.” And I mean that in a good way. Good post.

    • I know the feeling of “ouch” Anne. Really I think that type of good “ouch” is from the Holy Spirit. It does hurt when he starts peeling our dragon skin!

  • “Pastor, thank you for leading me into a time of conviction and deep reflection.” Those are the sermons that are most meaningful to me, the ones in which God speaks directly into my life that lead me to change and walk in deeper relationship with Him.

    • That’s a perfect response Chris! Ultimately the preacher just leads us, it’s the Holy Spirit who does the convicting.

  • DS

    I laughed when I read this. My wife’s grandfather recalled people discussing him stepping on their toes, to which he replied, “That’s to bad because I was aiming for your heart”. Would it be fair to ask about the best compliment being people acting/changing?

    • That’s great!

    • I like his response about aiming for the heart! One of the things I tell guys in my preaching classes is that ultimately we want to effect heart change. The evidence of heart change should also be seen in our actions.

  • I think sometimes the best “comments” we can give a preacher is for him/her to see us humbling ourselves before God, praying, crying, praising, etc.
    Then the pastor knows that the message really touched them, it moved them closer to God and as you said, that’s the real point of it all.

    • That and the evidence of life change are both very encouraging for any preacher!

  • I love God’s Word it is my delight and the Bible tells us that we should receive His Word with great joy – when it can be had.
    I have been most mindful of the time, effort and prayer a Pastor has put in to preaching a great Word and I have thanked people such as Colin Urquart when I heard him preach.
    It is just being appreciative and good mannered for the prayer time a pastor has put in in obedience to the gift God has bestowed upon him.
    I cannot feel guilty about this for it is absolutely biblical to receive God’s Word in or out of a Church environment with great joy.
    I have watched Darrell Gilyard’s preach on the Superiority of the Saviour many many times and it never fails to leave me in awe and reduce me to tears for the incredibility of God’s Word as Darrell proclaims Jesus from every Chapter in the Bible.
    I have written to him, years ago, to thank him.
    1 Thessalonians 1:6 You became imitators of us and of the …
    In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the … us and Our Lord, for you received the word in great affliction and in the joy of …
    I have great joy in receiving counsel from God’s word –

    Psalm 16, David goes on to say ‘I bless the LORD who gives me counsel…’ There is a great Joy in receiving God’s word.

    Right now I do thank you for your blog. For the time and effort and prayer you must apply in its writing. It means a great deal to me to receive it and in this day of so much false teaching it is good to find a man who writes truth.

    • You’re right, there’s no reason at all to feel guilty about delighting in God’s Word! Thanks for your encouragement.

  • I see your point. You’d be hard pressed to find someone willing to say the primary objective of God’s word is entertainment. But is it to be enjoyed, and can it be? I would say definitely. Good food can often be an enjoyable experience, whether it’s for the mind, body or spirit. But I guess the issue is authenticity. There are some sermons that inspire and encourage by drawing attention to the beauty of the gospel, the greatness of the kingdom, the wonder of grace, the gentleness of God. When a person genuinely enjoys this kind of sermon they have no room to alter their experience of it, and feeding that back may be a valid response.

    But there are other sermons where the tenor and topic is of a different ilk; addressing pride etc. sermons that challenge the hearer to change. Sermons that, if received correctly, should be uncomfortable. If a person’s first response to this sort of preaching was ‘enjoyment’ I’d be inclined to wonder whether they really got what was being shared. It’d be interesting to then ask that person why they enjoyed it exactly, which would make for an intriguing conversation (although probably not one there’s really time to have on a Sunday when there are others to attend to).

    But this is a really cool post because it raises the question of what ought to be the response, and even better, draws attention to the fact that there should always be a response of one kind or another to the truths of God’s Word. It’s something we can all reflect on. How do I respond to preaching? Do I respond in the way I ought to? Do I fail to respond at all?

    PS. love the new look to the site by the way.

    • Good points Micah. I do agree that many sermons do have elements in them that can and should be enjoyed. I guess I’m thinking more of the main goals of preaching and I don’t think enjoyment is one of them. Enjoyment you might say is a natural result of a well preached sermon but the point is to communicate truth for life change.

      I just installed this theme today, so lots of work to do to get the bugs out and make it look like it should. I wanted something that was a bit cleaner and easier on the eyes.

  • Ok, I guess I’m guilty. I’ve told my pastor and other pastor-friends of mine that I enjoyed their sermon, or that it was “good,” “great,” or some other bland adjective. What I really meant was everything that you stated, so I guess I should be clearer next time, haha.
    I’ve also said “That was a special time,” which I guess isn’t quite as awkward as everything else. But I could still be more specific.

  • Tim Wiebe

    Preacher, I really enjoyed this post.

  • Good word, Caleb. I think sometimes when someone tells you that they “enjoyed’ your sermon, they’re really saying that they got something out of it. I like to communicate it much the way I started this comment; “Good Word, preacher.”

  • haha, I am guilty. But sometimes I say it to express a funny sermon. I know some pastors who are gifted with the gift of comedy. But mostly I like to say “that was an awesome/powerful message” Now I know a better way to express my self 🙂

  • Guest