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!