When Listeners Aren’t Satisfied

Preaching is complex. Take, for example, the matter of listener satisfaction. If they aren’t satisfied, it could be a good sign, or a bad sign. Likewise having everyone happy may mean something is wrong. So how do we navigate the issue of listener satisfaction, after all, dissatisfaction expressed is seldom water off a ducks back (for most of us). Taking some prompts from Boyd-MacMillan and blending them with my own thoughts, here are a few comments to prompt our thoughts. This is by no means a definitive list of thoughts, but it is a start:

1. Expressed dissatisfaction is often overstated. Many people find it hard to express dissatisfaction fairly. It’s as if something wells up within and then bursts forth, often with excessive force. Boyd-MacMillan says that Christians “often express criticism in apocalyptic terms.” Instead of simply stating, “I don’t like his style,” they will instead assert that “he betrayed the gospel of Jesus Christ!” It is a good skill to learn to tone down excessive criticism as well as excessive praise (“that was the best sermon I ever heard!!!” probably wasn’t).

2. Recognize that tension fired your way is often nothing to do with you or your preaching. People react to the innocent provocation of pet peeves, or the poking of raw nerves of various kinds. You may become the focus of the critique, but don’t take all critique at face value.

That’s enough for now, more to follow tomorrow. Feel free to comment from your experience and perspective.

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