There is a discrepancy that I need to share with you. This week, in a slightly relaxed pre-Christmas mode, I ran a couple of polls on the Facebook page and the LinkedIn group associated with this blog. I asked, what do you wish you had more of in order to help improve your preaching. Here are the results in reverse order . . .
In last place – further training in biblical studies (5%)
In fourth – more encouragement from listeners (10%)
In third – further training in preaching (19%)
In second – more fellowship with other preachers (24%)
And the winner – more time for preparation (43%)
Now I have done enough classes in quantitative analysis and statistics to know that this survey is bordering on meaningless, but in the spirit of bad statistics, let me make a couple of comments before I point out a big discrepancy for pondering over this festive season.
Comment on the winner - people responded to the survey by clicking on their most desperate felt need. I suspected that time would be the greatest felt need because many of us wish we had more of it every single week! This doesn’t mean that only ten percent of preachers need more encouragement from listeners. I suspect that number would be higher if people could have voted for two or three options.
Another comment on the runner-up - it is interesting that quite a few folks expressed the desire for more fellowship with other preachers. I suspect that the ministry of preaching is unnecessarily lonely in many churches. Perhaps it is worth starting some sort of preacher’s gathering in your area, or better, in your church. I have been so encouraged by the first two gatherings of a dozen preachers and interested parties in our church.
DISCREPANCY! I posted another poll in a larger group of Christians asking “What is the greatest weakness in the preaching you hear?” The options available were lack of Bible, poor handling of the Bible, lack of clarity, lack of relevance, and poor presentation. Issues of clarity and presentation came last, lack of Bible came third, lack of relevance second, but the runaway winner was poor handling of the Bible with 45%. Combine that with lack of Bible for a total of 65% and two things jump out at me.
1. I’m breaking too many quantitative analysis rules to list.
2. Runaway greatest need in one poll (Bible handling), and distant last in perceived need among preachers (further training in Biblical studies) – could it be that preachers are generally over-confident in their ability to handle the text accurately and effectively? I know some of the preachers who responded to the poll and don’t think this to be true of them, but in general, this strikes me as true: many preachers need more training in effective Bible handling. I wonder if it would be worth picking up that book that might help over the next couple of weeks as we sit at home enjoying Christmas festivities? That might be the best feast of them all!
Have a wonderful Christmas!