Preaching is a complex ministry. Consider the issue of listener satisfaction. If listeners aren’t satisfied, it could be a good sign, or it could be a bad sign. In the same way, happy listeners may mean something is wrong.
So what to do? How can we navigate the issue of listener satisfaction? What should it mean for our preaching? What should it mean for our hearts?
Here are 10 thoughts to ponder:
1. Recognize “over-blurt” – Many folks in churches struggle to express negative thoughts effectively. Perhaps it is because they never do it (unlikely), or perhaps it is because they feel guilty doing it (at least to a preacher). Consequently many will hold back unsuccessfully and then over-blurt what they are trying to say. A gentle critique then comes across as a cataclysmic slap to the face of the preacher (hopefully metaphorically speaking).
Instead of saying “I struggle with his style of delivery,” or “it is difficult to relate to sporting illustrations all the time,” they end up saying things like, “he should never again speak to more than two people at once!,” or “his message was filled with damnable heresy!” Oops. Over-blurt.
It is possible to get microphones that condense sound into a middle range – i.e. toning down the shout and strengthening the whisper. We need to learn this skill as preachers. Over-blurt attacks need to be toned down before they are processed. (But be careful your ego doesn’t remove or ignore any negative elements whatsoever!)
Remember that toning down excessive praise can also be very important too. (“That was the best sermon I ever heard!!!” probably wasn’t.)
2. Recognize “misdirected fire” – that is to say, tension fired your way will often have very little to do with you or your preaching. People will react to the innocent provocation of their pet peeves, or the poking of raw nerves of various kinds. They may also be having a bad week with issues at home, at work, in their personal lives, etc. You may become the focus of the critique, but don’t take all critique at face value. Sadly, being willing to be a leader in the church means choosing to be shot at, primarily by Christians.
There’s more to come, but please comment from your perspective, are these points on target? (Feel free to comment on Twitter, @PeterMead #ListenerSatisfaction)