So, You Want to Grade a Sermon?

We thought to repost this list on BJS in hopes of generating some further discussion of what makes a good (or bad) sermon. The list was originally written by Charles Wiese and recently reposted on my blog, the First Premise.

Here is a listing of sermon reviews that Charles Wiese has posted on his blog.

 

  1. Does the pastor explain the text correctly? (+1 for explaining the text correctly, 0 for not explaining the text at all, -1 for explaining the text incorrectly)
  2. Is the law preached lawfully? (+1 for preaching the law in all its sternness, 0 for not preaching the law at all, -1 for preaching the law as if it is doable)
  3. Does the sermon mention Jesus? (+1 for saying true things about Jesus, 0 for not mentioning Jesus, -1 for saying false things about Jesus)
  4. Is the sermon about what Jesus has done for us? (+1 if the primary focus of the sermon is about what Jesus has done for us, 0 if the sermon does not mention Jesus, -1 if the sermon is all about what we do for Jesus)
  5. Does the creation of a wordle show a Christian focus in the sermon? (+1 for yes, 0 for sort of, -1 for no)

5 is the highest possible score and -5 is the lowest possible score.


Comments

So, You Want to Grade a Sermon? — 12 Comments

  1. And, in happy clappy churches, should we clap in applause when the pastor says a particularly good sermon, that is, if we are clapping for everything else. We clap at baptisms just because we’ve got a new baby in church. It seems to me that once you’ve establish clapping as an appropriate liturgical response, that doing it right after a good sermon would fit right in. A hearty amen “shout-out” at particularly well-put parts of the sermon works very well in some circles, I can attest from a somewhat diletantist youth.

  2. I struggle with the idea that sermons are graded. Grades are intrinsically law, measuring performance, and creating a pecking order. Also preaching is a very personal part of being a pastor as a pastor applies the law and gospel to the specific context of life of the hearers. I as a pastor struggle with being overly complemented and overly criticized over my preaching. Reality is somewhere deep in a Pastor’s soul he knows when he has done his work, organized his thoughts, chosen the right words, and preached law and gospel into the hearts of the people. Something rings in my soul when I know I have done a good job with a text even if people are critical. Something sours in my soul when I hit a clunker, even if people are complementary. As a pet peeve I don’t like pastors cutting and posting their manuscript on a website. To be candid manuscripts are boring and lack the vitality of a pastor who proclaims those written words. Preach it, post it and send me a link. I”d rather listen than read. Sermons were meant to be heard:)

  3. #1, #3 and #4 are the touchstone of a good sermon in my book.

    I have heard a few sermons with the Law/Gospel dynamic but were generic. They were a quick rundown of the Ten Commandments and then the cross. Not bad, but not text-specific law, or text-specific gospel.

  4. @Tim #2
    As a pet peeve I don’t like pastors cutting and posting their manuscript on a website. To be candid manuscripts are boring and lack the vitality of a pastor who proclaims those written words. Preach it, post it and send me a link.

    (Audio only here)

    http://www.stpaulaustin.org/sermons

    Are you pleased to have both?

    http://www.pilgrimlc.org/sermons

    You can even watch this one:

    (But it takes longer to get vimeo posted, apparently.)

  5. @Joanne #1
    We clap at baptisms just because we’ve got a new baby in church.

    We don’t anymore. The person who led the clapping moved away. (You wouldn’t think one person would make that much difference? We’re sheep!)

    If we had to do something “extra liturgical” after a baptism, singing the doxology might seem more appropriate. But “going by the book” is fine with me!

  6. This string seems like a good opportunity to advertise a little venture we in the Montana District call the Lutheran Preaching Practicum.
    Next week, for our fourth consecutive year, a group of confessional Lutheran pastors (mostly LCMS but not exclusively) will gather together for 48 hours to preach and then discuss sermons. The preacher leads the discussion of his own sermon, which takes a little of the nervous edge off for first-timers, but the 20 or so of us who have participated so far have found the preaching encouraging, the discussion cordial and valuable, and the evenings around the campfire restful.
    We have a little rubric for critiquing sermons, but don’t actually use it much. One pastor did bring the Wordle idea last year, which proved to be a good visual tool.
    This has proven to be a low cost, high benefit gathering where taking the risk of exposing your preaching to the specific consideration of brother pastors has resulted in growth, in both theology and rhetoric. At least it has for this pastor.
    LPP is a private venture, not supported by anyone but the pastors involved, although we do advertise it through our District Pastors e-mail list with the DP’s knowledge and consent.
    Lord willing, we will do it again next year; if you know a pastor out there who might be interested, have him contact me at [email protected]. Or better yet, pastors in other locations could steal the idea and the Lutheran Preaching Practicum could spread its benefits far and wide!

  7. @Tim #2
    “I struggle with the idea that sermons are graded. Grades are intrinsically law, measuring performance, and creating a pecking order.”

    Then again, it can be a noble thing to do — listen eagerly for the Gospel, then check the Word, to see if the sermon was true.

    “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
    (Acts 7:11)

    Your talk of a ringing in your soul reminds me of a professor who told us about a time he preached without spending the proper time preparing. He decided he’d just trust the Holy Spirit to give him the right words to say. He told us that when he got in the pulpit all he heard the Spirit say was, “You should have prepared better…” 🙂

  8. Not mentioning Jesus or what He has done for us is neutral? Not positive or not negative? Shouldn’t this type of sermon get a big negative?

  9. @ Ted great post, I heard a colleague say, he only needed 5 minute to pray and he could preach the text. Not long after that he lost his ministry, his family and the whole thing. I think it was the egotism that killed him on all fronts. Let the word of Christ dwell within you richly;)

  10. I understand the aim of this sermon grading tool, but it does seem to raise a question especially with regards to question 2:

    With this sermon grading technique, where is there room for textual preaching on Paul’s exhortations? Is the law doable for the Christian or is there no room for a 3rd use of the law in preaching?

    While the law always accuses, it does not only accuse.

  11. Why Wordle might not the best measure: Paste this into wordle and Jesus seems to be the focus but he does not drive the verbs: “I do this for Jesus. I can love Jesus. I can choose Jesus. I can define Jesus. I can confess Jesus. I can do all things for Jesus. I am for Jesus. I can never lose Jesus. you do this for Jesus. you can love Jesus. you can choose Jesus. you can define Jesus. you can confess Jesus. you can do all things for Jesus. you are for Jesus. You can never lose Jesus. man can do this for Jesus. man can love Jesus. man can choose Jesus. man can define Jesus. man can confess Jesus. man can do all things for Jesus. man is for Jesus. man can never lose Jesus.”

    yes, it is a bit of a contrived example. I use wordle in sermon prep, but not without checking who’s driving the verbs.

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