I have always been shy about compliments to my preaching. I have a hard time receiving them even on weeks when I think everything went well and God showered us all with his presence and grace. At the same time, I am fast to hear the negative comments. I wonder why the criticisms cut so much deeper than the compliments?

In preaching the Word I trust God. I pray, I wait for and gratefully accept inspiration, I declare theologically that what comes from the pulpit comes from God and any effectiveness in preaching is a gift from the Holy Spirit. The problem is this: theologically all acclaim for decent preaching goes to God. The glory of the spoken word all belongs to God. This makes compliments feel misplaced, and if I say something like, “Yes God really showed up today!” that sounds both trite and goofily modest, and anyways doesn’t he always?

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If good preaching comes from God where does bad preaching come from? I believe God always shows up and he can redeem any moment. Still, there is something about bad preaching that suddenly, crushingly, makes the process about me. Did I study enough? Did I pray enough? Did I listen to God and to commentaries enough? Did I really preach it to me before I preached it to others…you see what is happening here, right?

My theology makes me vulnerable to criticism and closed (mostly) to acclaim. I believe part of preparing and delivering sermon after sermon is the process itself. I believe that as I preach I am humbled, as the weeks pass I am even more humbled, and when a crisis arises, I am yet again reminded that the ministry God has given me is his first and that what I do I do in reliance on him.

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I will try to make a practice to remind myself of this whenever a harsh word comes my way. I will endeavour to pray for increasing reliance on God whenever I hear criticism. I will also try to listen to hear the truth God may be speaking to me through the voices and take away and learn from others who are not out to hurt me but to teach and guide me.

How do you handle criticism or acclaim?

 

 

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