First, a caveat: I know some church members are more than willing to tell us their thoughts about our preaching. Too often, though, folks aren’t always honest with us when they’re bored with our preaching. Here are some reasons why:
- They really do love us, and they don’t want to hurt us. They know that talking to a preacher about his preaching is to speak into a central part of who he is. Rather than risk wounding us, they simply choose to be quiet.
- They’re willing to quietly tolerate less-than-the-best preaching because they know we love them. When we’ve ministered to church members by sacrificially giving ourselves over the years, they know we care – so, again, they don’t want to hurt us.
- They respect the call and position of the pastor. Even if they struggle paying attention to our sermons, they still won’t say anything. They wouldn’t dare speak against God’s leader who stands in the pulpit.
- They’ve never known a pastor who honestly asked for feedback on sermons. The whole idea is almost foreign to many church members. They’ll talk among themselves about their boredom, but not with their pastor.
- Their own sinfulness makes them question their right to speak to us. They know they don’t always listen to the preaching anyway. When they do listen, they don’t always obey the Word. Guilt keeps them silent.
- Sometimes, it seems easier to leave the church under the guise of, “We weren’t being fed” than it is to speak to the pastor. I’ve written about why this reasoning in leaving a church often lacks warrant, but we still use it as a means to avoid painful honesty.
- They assume we already recognize when we’re “not on.” To be honest, we often do—but not always. Only once in my life have I met a boring preacher/professor who recognized he was boring. We need folks who respect us and love us to speak truth to us.
- They’re not sure we’ll listen. In some cases, that’s because they’ve seen a pattern in our lives: we bow up defensively whenever anyone questions any area of our ministry. We don’t take criticism well.
Beginning with me, all of us need believers who respect us and love us enough to help us evaluate our sermons – and, we must be willing to enlist them and hear their feedback. Even when it hurts.