An Honest Appraisal:  How to Recognize Good Preaching 

 In Jason Bunger, Preaching & Teaching, Uncategorized

I recall when I made up my mind that I was going to ask Dawn to marry me that I was not only going to take a major step in our relationship, but I was also going to need to buy an engagement ring.  I didn’t know where to begin.  I knew I wanted to get something beautiful, unique and with a liberal return policy. (She hadn’t said “yes” yet at the time.).  I didn’t know anything about looking for a ring, but quickly found out that the worth of a diamond was determined by the “three Cs-cut, clarity and color.”  Diamonds are an example of something that could hold enormous value, but I, like most people, didn’t know how to appraise the value until it time to make this major life commitment.  

Likewise, most of us don’t really know how to appraise preaching.  Media and our consumer mindset have led to an abundance of great preaching and also terrible preaching.  What is popular is not always good, and what is good is not always appreciated.  I ask three questions when appraising a preaching ministry. 

Is it Biblical?

This should go without saying, but a message cannot be trusted as Biblical if its source is not the Bible. I have seen amazing talks with cars, cereal boxes and way-cool videos that taught great life lessons by captivating preachers. The problem with many (not all) of these?  They were inspirational talks by gifted speakers, but they were just not Biblical messages.  Here is one litmus for a Biblical message.  “If the talk you just heard would be embraced the same way in the temples and worship venues of other religions, then it probably was not a Biblical, Christ-centered message.”  You can hear inspiring informative presentations outside of a gospel-centered church, but rarely will you hear a Christ-centered message. 

Does It Contain Balance? 

Good preachers have a balance in their preaching.  They will vary between the Old Testament and New Testament, spirit and truth, judgement and forgiveness, death and life, etc.   Because scripture addresses all the experiences of life, so should the breath of a preacher.  Some preachers only preach on the “positives” aspects of faith, others only seem to preach judgment.  This not only says something about the preacher, but about those who choose to only listen to one approach.  It reflects how we see ourselves and how we choose to see God.  If a preacher only preaches love and grace, his hearers will never confront and overcome sin.  If he only preaches about sin and judgment, his listeners will never experience the joy and love that actually leads us to redemption.  It is for this reason that the best way to avoid this challenge is to be committed to consecutive expository preaching (add link to previous article) so that issues are uncovered the preacher goes methodically through a large portion of scripture.

Who is the Sermon About?  

If a message is mainly about the preacher, or even the listener, the message is not fundamentally about Christ.  If you know more about the life, experiences, and hobbies of the preacher after a message than Jesus, you probably were not listening to a Biblical message.  Neither should a sermon be primary about the listener.  H. B. Charles has been known to say, “a sermon that is about you, cannot help you.”  (paraphrase mine) 

John Stott, perhaps one of the greatest English preachers of this past last century, put it something like this (paraphrase mine).  After listening to a great sermon, you should say, “Yes.  That is exactly what the passage teaches.  Now why didn’t I see that before?”  

In short,  good preaching should be based in scripture, balanced to include all areas of life/scripture and ultimately be about Christ. 

…Oh, and in case you were wondering, she did say “Yes” to the proposal. 

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