Evaluating My Own Sermon

Edit:  People have asked for the link… so here it is.  I didn’t want to give it, but whatever.  Warning:  If you hold to limited atonement, you might not like the sermon, but I really don’t care :).

This past Sunday, I preached at my church for the third time.  Add in the other times I’ve preached (three times during preaching class, one time in Austin), and that brings my total of actual sermons to just seven.  I’ve taught many Bible classes before and I’ve spoken at large group settings, but I’m not really a preacher kind of a guy so I don’t seek opportunities to preach.

Nor have I tried to go back and listen/watch myself, even though you are encouraged to in class in order to improve.  As most people know, it’s weird listening to yourself and to watch yourself.  Your voice sounds weird to you, your mannerisms are weird to you, and it’s embarrassing if you screw up.  I don’t mind reading the stuff I’ve written, but it’s pretty awkward watching and listening to myself engage in public speaking.

However, on Tuesday, I went online to our church’s website and decided to give my sermon a listen.  The good thing was that it was only audio so I didn’t have to watch myself; in some ways, that’s not as useful because I can’t evaluate my own nonverbal motions (or lack thereof), but whatever, nobody wants to watch a skinny Korean dude wave his arms around :).

Things I learned:

-My voice sounds so foreign to me that I sometimes forgot I was listening to myself, only remembering because I remembered pretty much everything I had said.

-I don’t really like my voice.  It’s more on the deep and soft side, making it hard to understand if I’m not projecting or talking slowly.  Obviously, I need to start yelling and talk super slow to everyone as if they’re idiots ;).  Furthermore, it’s not an easy voice to manipulate (and I’m not an animated person, normally, to begin with).  This is why dry humor fits me best, but a lot of people are noobs and miss what I say :).

-My timing was good this time around.  I was given about 35 minutes, and minus the pastor’s introduction of me, it was about 33.  Which is good, because it’s around the 30 minute mark that people in our culture start to tune the heck out unless one can hold an audience like Matt Chandler.  I also don’t really like speaking for long periods of time, so at a half hour I’m as ready to sit down as people are of getting me to shut up.

-I’m glad I knew the text well, because there were a couple of times where I missed something I wanted to say but was able to incorporate it later, or times where transition was perhaps slightly awkward but I could simply move on.

-For sermons, the big thing I always worry about is the introduction.  Not only is it important to catch the audience’s attention, it introduces the text and purpose of the sermon.  However, if you’re aiming to quit around 30-35 minutes, you can’t afford to have a long-winded, 15 minute introduction even if it is interesting and funny.  And it’s easy to get caught up during the introduction because you often start with some story or illustration and then talk about the background and context of the passage.  That’s probably the one thing I practice the most so I can avoid spending too much time on it.  I thought I did a good job getting through the introduction without burning too much clock.

-Rabbit trails and short illustrations can add up… quickly.  I avoided them for the most part on Sunday, but there were a few more illustrations I thought of using but didn’t, and I’m thankful I didn’t because just a couple of more of those would have taken me overtime.

-The text should always be paramount.  If one doesn’t have the speaking gifts of the more famous pastors, which I surely do not, then you definitely need to stick to the text because you otherwise don’t have too many interesting things to say.  Of course, if you do, you should stick with the text anyway, but I guess you can get away with a lot more rabbit trails.  In other words, if I wasn’t explaining a Bible passage, I would have been even more boring than I was.

-I think I’m good at explanation of main ideas; I’m not so good at “pathos,” developing an emotional link to the audience.  One, I’m not an emotional guy because emotions are for wimps ;).  Two, I’m not an animated person (unless I’m watching sports).  I just go up there, say sarcastic things, and I explain what I believe the passage means.  I’m convicted but not outwardly passionate.  It’s something I can probably work on, though I do not want to fake being someone that I am not.

-Without God, there is no preaching.  When I tried to run through the sermon the night before, it felt off, so I just prayed and went to sleep.  When I was preaching, I remembered all the important things I needed to say to explain the passage.  I got through the passage at a brisk, but followable, pace, and I’m relatively satisfied with my level of explanation other than in a couple of places.  I thank God that he helped me remember the necessary things to say.

Anyway… I don’t know if I’ll go back to listen to myself again, but that was an interesting exercise.  Feedback from others is also always welcome, though that doesn’t mean I will care :).

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