Recently, I have been talking with folks about preaching and what kinds of sermons speak to us. Some have told me they like well-crafted sermons with a clear path to follow. Others like sermons that are "Bible-based" - though even that can mean different things to different people. Still others talk about wanting to feel something deeply - for them it is about something that touches their heart. Others talk about wanting to be inspired, lifted up, and filled with hope. Some like sermons that begin with a story, while others are looking for something practical that speaks to everyday life.
When I listen to someone else preach, it is something of an occupational hazard for preachers to begin evaluating each other. We tend to look at things like homiletical integrity and exegetical faithfulness. But on another level, we are also looking for the preaching to speak God's word to us in some way that touches our heart, enlightens our mind, and gives us something practical to do in response to God's good news.
I have found that I often start off evaluating the preacher, not only from a professional standpoint, but also whether he or she is saying anything that "speaks to me." However, if I can get past that initial phase, I sometimes remind myself that this is not a performance. Nor is it all about me getting my needs met. It is ultimately about worshipping God. So, if that is our main purpose, then instead of sitting back and evaluating the preacher, I remember that actually we are all on the same side, trying to accomplish the same thing. It is at that point that I often begin praying for the preacher - that his or her words would say to all of us what we need to hear. It is amazing how much better the preaching gets when I do that! I don't think it is because I am good at praying, as much as it is about changing my perspective.
I am out of town this weekend for one of my daughter's Parents' Weekend at her college, but when Scott is preaching, I hope you will pray for him (and all of us who preach) so he can speak to you - and to everyone else.