A Post-Sermon Review

*Guest post by Michael Cooper. Michael serves as Assistant to the President at Criswell College. 

When I was in the 8th grade I played football. I was not very good. But neither was the middle school football team I played for, so everything balanced out. Anyway, that’s another story.  We played on Thursday nights and the following Friday we would watch “game film”. I hated it. It was always embarrassing to watch myself miss a tackle, fumble the ball, or get called for a penalty which cost the game. But game film served as an opportunity to teach. Of course, the intent was for us to learn from our mistakes and correct them for the next game. But we never figured that out.

As preachers, we can do the same thing if we cultivate the habit of a “post sermon review.” By taking time during a following Monday morning we can listen to ourselves, critique, and learn with the intent to become better heralds of God’s Word.

One of the best ways to critique ourselves is by having a set of questions to ask as we listen. Here are some example questions. The first set is exegetical, the next is expositional, and the last two are questions that should always be asked regardless of the text we are preaching.

Exegetical Questions

1.) Did I explain the context of the passage?

Context is always important in understanding the paragraph we are handling on Sunday morning. It would serve our congregations well if we spent time rooting the context or, if we are preaching expositionally through books, showing how the paragraphs link together.

2.) Did I explain the logic of the paragraph or the narrative?

This question has to do with “tracing the argument” of the passage. Here we can ask questions concerning syntax and semantics. Did I communicate each clause clearly? Did I convey the meaning of key words? Remember, it is not about explaining each word as if you are lecturing to an exegesis seminary class. Yet, defining key words for your hearers can reinforce the point of the text.

3.) Did I explain the theology, history, and literary genre?

This question has to do with clear communication of theological ideas, background, and even the literary genre of the passage. For example, in Romans 5:1-11 did I explain reconciliation and atonement? In Mark 8:27-38 did I communicate the background and history of Caesarea Philippi? In Matthew 13 did I explain what a parable is and how it works?

These exegetical questions just scratch the surface of the many questions that could be asked. But as preachers our first concern should be exegesis of the text.

A final question: Did any of that get in the way of people hearing God’s Word with clarity?

Exposition Questions

These questions focus on the style and flow of the sermon.

1.) Did I introduce the sermon well?

Here it would be important to ask the question: Did I state my C.I.T (Central Idea of the Text)? Each paragraph we encounter has a main idea or central idea. It is important to communicate this idea in the sermon. Note that the C.I.T does not have to be stated at the beginning of the text. It could fall at the end if you are preaching in a more inductive manner. However, did you communicate that idea to your people?

2.) Did I flow well from the introduction into the body of the sermon?

Making the smooth transition between the introduction and the body is extremely important. At this point you can lose your people if your opening illustration and the passage you are preaching don’t connect. There is a pivotal point in making that step into the text.

3.) Did I connect the points of the text?

This question is similar to the second question concerning exegesis (did I explain the logic of the text?). Since our points should come from the text that we are preaching they should flow in a logical manner. However, many times they don’t. This can result from a prefabricated structure imposed on the text or just bad exegesis. Connecting your points help your hearers understand not only the logic but the C.I.T.

4.) Did I finish well?

In the words of my preaching professor, Dr. Alan Streett, “Did you land the plane?” A smooth transition between the body to the conclusion provides your audience an easy resolution. If your text has built in tension you can provide the hearers with a resolution. You also want to ask questions concerning your application, namely: Did my application come from the text?

A final question: Did any of that get in the way of people hearing God’s Word with clarity?

Two Main Questions

I do think that regardless of what text we are preaching, two overarching questions must be asked.

1.)   Was I faithful to the text to the best of my ability?

Our job, our delight, our joy, our honor, our privilege is to deliver God’s Word to God’s people. Not our word but God’s, in written form, the text that lies in front of us on the pulpit we stand behind. As you stare at it, trust me, it stares right back. It is easy not to be faithful and compromise because of our ignorance.

2.)   Finally and most importantly: Did I point the people of God to The Lord Jesus?

The Written Word points outside of itself to the Living Word, Jesus. You may be able to do great exegesis. You might be able to communicate your message with clarity. The flow of your sermon might be spot on. However, if you do not point God’s people to Jesus, you have failed. Preaching is not about you or me. Neither is it ultimately about great rhetoric or polished exegesis. Preaching is not about preaching. Preaching is about Jesus who is the Lord. In the end, if we work hard, good exegesis and good exposition should always point to Jesus.

“Game Film on Monday Morning”

The questions above are not the “be all to end all” for a post-sermon review. However, I do think they provide a starting point. If you are anything like me, you really don’t like listening to yourself. I have somewhat of an East Texas twang mixed with a strange blend of who knows what. So listening to myself is not my favorite exercise. But I find it helpful even when I get embarrassed or “fumble” the text.  In those cases, listening, critiquing, and learning from my past sermons helps to enforce a much-needed humility and break me of my self-reliance.

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One Response to A Post-Sermon Review

  1. Pastor Homer S. Hutto says:

    Well done…thank you for “putting to paper” a methodology for self improvement in the office of the herald. God Bless !

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