Testing the Sermon

Those that preach, whether weekly or in special contexts, have available to them any number of systems by which to critique or evaluate a sermon. And the hearer of preaching also can find such resources. Some of these systems though are no better than a grade sheet from a public speaking class at the public university. Sadly, in our churches, we judge style and presentation more than we do substance. The saints languish under this emphasis.

Many systems and evaluations are worthwhile though. The key to judging them is the emphasis they put on the preaching of Christ in every sermon. (After all friends, these are supposed to be Christian sermons!)  Bill Riedel has four questions when listening to a sermon that I think are helpful and could serve many preachers. "As we sit under gospel-centered, biblical preaching we ought to ask how the text shapes us rather than asking how the preacher did."

Here are his questions:

"1. Was the Bible faithfully exposed?

"...That means working hard to determine not just the meaning of the words themselves, but the meaning the words hold in the context of the sentence, paragraph, book, genre, canonical setting, and broader redemptive-historical narrative storyline of the Bible."

"2. Was the gospel – the Good News of Jesus’ work – the center?

"...It does mean that part of the work of responsible exposition is to show how every text is a thread in the broader tapestry of Redemptive History. This will be some of the hardest work for a preacher, but also the most powerful."

"3. Were believers challenged to live in light of their identity in Christ?

"...This means that there is a difference between who we are (indicative) and what we ought to do (imperative). Preachers need to remind us of our identity in Jesus and then move to the fruit of life in Jesus through obedience."

"4. Were nonbelievers called to belief and repentance?

"...If nonbelievers have not been offered the gift of salvation through Jesus and an opportunity to turn in belief and repentance, the sermon has fallen dreadfully short."

Then Riedel hits something of vital importance for the minister of the gospel: "The Holy Spirit is not bound by your stylistic idiosyncrasies. It’s God’s Word and the gospel found within it that have the power to transform lives by the work of the Spirit as He draws people to God through Christ. Rest."

Extremely helpful and worth your consideration. Read the rest from Riedel, who is a pastor and planter in Washington, DC,  here. 



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