Kris Barnett, one of my Anderson University colleagues, recently stepped into my office after hearing a speaker at a nearby conference, and said, “You know your sermon might be struggling if you say, ‘But I digress,’ and the congregation can’t determine what you digressed from.” He then rattled off a few more zingers, each of which he insists was visible in the work of this notorious guest preacher, including:

• You say, “Now we will return to the text,” and the congregation cannot recall ever being in a text.
• The original language phrase that dominates your message doesn’t actually appear in your focal text.
• One of the primary points of your sermon actually contradicts your primary Scripture text.
• Your sermon points are so loosely connected that they would make a better sermon series than a sermon.
• Your sermon points are so loosely connected that they wouldn’t even make a good sermon series.
• At the conclusion of the message you ask, “What is the point of what I am saying?” and no one in the room, including you, can articulate a response.

It got me thinking about some less-than-stellar sermons I have observed…OK…and that I have delivered. How do you know when things aren’t going well? You know your sermon is in trouble when…
• The kids start leaving to go to children’s church—and half the adults go with them.
• Your listeners all start posting Twitter messages during your message, and the hash tag is #this-is-so-boring!
• Your church forms a pastor search committee before you reach the third point of the message.
• Your mom gets up and leaves 10 minutes into the message.
• You are at the eighth point of your outline, and you’re not quite halfway through the message.
• Folks decide to tune into the latest online Charles Stanley or Chuck Swindoll message while you are still preaching.
• The deacons all decide to pray for you in another room while you’re still preaching.
• You are dreaming you are preaching—then wake up and realize you are!

Here’s praying that you don’t have one of those Sundays any time soon!

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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