The good, the bad, the…

I triple dog dare you to email 5-10 lay people asking them to list one characteristic of good preaching and one characteristic of bad preaching.

Then, I quadruple dog dare you to share the results with the rest of us in the comments section of this post!

Leave a Reply

16 thoughts on “The good, the bad, the…

  1. I have posted your questions to three groups (Facebook and two more private groups) and asked that the question be answered by lay members of those groups. I will post any replies that I may get.

  2. Well, I posted the question five minutes ago, but I have already received three answers – from three different sources. I will wait a day or two an collect the answers before sharing them.

  3. I’ve done it and gotten 3 responses so far. Will join Floyd in waiting a day or two and then post the responses. Boy! Am I learning a lot! :) Maybe we could compile all the responses in a booklet on preaching from the people in the pew!

  4. So far today, I’ve gotten these responses to posts on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter:

    Good preaching gives both practicals and spiritual truth, but bad preaching focuses on only one or the other.

    Good preaching : using facts, gives background on what they preaching about, can paint a picture w/their words & spreading the truth.
    Bad preaching: the opposite of good preaching.

    good preaching=humble spirit / bad preaching=judging spirit

    Good: Congregation fully engaged. Bad: Lack of direction in sermons.

    Will post more if/as they come.

  5. Here’s one very thoughtful response I received. I will post the other two responses separately.

    One characteristic of good preaching is Biblical soundness. Supporting each point being made from the pulpit with at least two cross-referencing scriptures, two levels deep, is to me part of good preaching. So a typical sermon that has a single point broken into four sub-points should have four times two supporting scripture references that the congregation is asked to turn to which supports the sub-point. Two being a minimum per sub-point. Below would be an off-the-cuff example with three references.

    I.E. A sermon on a persons’ Spiritual Warfare:

    First define ‘man’ or ‘person’

    Man is made in God’s image.

    Genesis 1:26
    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

    Genesis 9:6
    “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

    Further define what ‘image’ means for this application/sermon, i.e. Man is – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

    Matthew 22:37
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

    Mark 12:30
    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

    Luke 10:27
    He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”

    And then, having defined that man is spirit, that is having a soul, proceeding to preach on the specific topic of Spiritual Warfare. Having first scripturally brought people to the sermon topic and then proceeding to support the sermon in like fashion, that is, with supporting scripture.

    Bad preaching is much easier to define. It is simply someone picking a certain scripture and trying to explain it, in their understanding, with no supporting scripture. This allows people to feel it is ok to self-interpret without performing any due-diligence on their interpretation. Of course this ultimately leads to a wrong understanding of God’s will and will be reflected in the way we live out our lives.

    • Wow! This person is clearly a very analytical thinker who has spent some time contemplating good preaching! Good for him/her! I wonder if this is really a lay person and/or has he/she ever had any homiletical training, because that’s the type of answer I would have expected from someone who studied preaching at some point. Challenging words, to say the least!

  6. Two more responses re good and bad preaching:
    Great idea…here goes….

    1) Great preaching always includes the Word

    2) Bad preaching to me is rambling, story telling…with no lesson to help me this week and beyond


    One characteristic of good preaching: Taking scripture and going through it with the congregation, and then relating it to today’s world. How can that passage be used in the congregation’s everyday life? What lessons can we learn from that? What does God want us to know and understand from that passage? Why is it important to me? Even if the lesson is a hard one to swallow, it should be brought to the congregation and not sugar coated. Not all of God’s lessons are easy, but they are all important. This also helps those of us just learning the bible to connect passages, understand meanings, and be able to “use that passage in a sentence” so to speak, or put it into our lives.

    One characteristic of bad preaching: Going through more than one passage during a service, and they don’t relate to each other. If the passages are related somehow, not describing their connection isn’t good. It’s not always obvious. All of the scripture readings should be based around the sermon message. The ritual of reading two lessons and a Gospel, isn’t the best way to conduct a sermon. Reading the bible doesn’t make you a Christian. Reading the bible, understanding it, and using it’s lessons everyday in your life helps to make you a Christian.

      • jgeerdes, you said, “Betty, that’s an interesting point about story-telling being bad. I am curious how they reconcile such a position to Jesus’ preaching style.”

        But Betty’s respondent had said “rambling, story telling…with no lesson to help me this week and beyond.” Jesus’ teaching was not rambling – other than a few sermons, each of his stories take up far less than on page in your Bible. And they had a lesson. That’s the difference between Jesus’ preaching and bad preaching – rambling, pointless stories are not parables. Make sure your stories connect to the topic and to the listener.

        • So, because of the comma, I am reading “rambling, story telling… with no lesson” as a list. Perhaps I am wrong in that, in which case I – and I suspect Jesus – would entirely concur that rambling, pointless story-telling is a terrible thing.

  7. Studies show an hour long lecture style sermon is hardly retained. We have the most important message. To teach people about Christ and use the least effective method– sermons! Maybe we should get back to discipleship? People learn best in small chunks of information, maybe shorten the sermon to 10-15 minutes, and people might actually retain the teaching.

    • Just wanted to say I’m not “anti-sermon.” I think they are vital. But, maybe if they were shorter in length, they would have more punch! The Barna study kinda startled me as to how little is actually remembered, retained by most church-goers from sermons only a few days afterwards, by both men and women. We live in a culture that feeds info in short bits, at lightning speeds, with computers/technology, and television commercials have programmed people to think in 30 second bites. Even expecting people to focus for 10-15 minutes may be stretching it! lol. People zone out after that. (Unless the audience is “academic” such as professors, etc.) then there’s an audience that an hour sermon may be appropriate. But, for the average crowd, I think Jesus would shorten it for “effectiveness.” Just some thoughts. Great topic here. Thanks.

      • I appreciate your comments. Although I would argue for the validity of preaching today, I agree preaching must change in substantial ways if it is going to have an impact commensurate with its potential. Let me push back a bit and suggest that preaching is aimed at more than just teaching and listenre retention of information. Preaching primarily inspires people not with more information but by painting a compelling picture of the Gospel that inspires people to apply the information they may already know. In my estimation, the American Church is full of information but often uninspired to embody the information they know. This is where preaching comes in. Preaching is, as you point out, not merely an academic lecture that transfers information. Preaching needs to be an experienctial event that, in a sense, transfers Christ or, more appropriately, makes him flesh in the moment the words of the sermon are spoken. If this happens people might not remember all of the information in the sermon but they will remember they encountered the mysetry of the incarnate Christ. That encounter transforms people through preaching.

  8. Interesting responses. I question whether Jesus “preached” as we use the term.

    Good preaching is what I like, and bad preaching is what I don’t like. Unfortunately for any pastor is ‘likes’ are fickle.

    Good preaching can only occur when it is annointed. Then his word never returns void.

  9. Lenny, we seem to have alot of good preaching, incredible sermons, with a wonderful painting of the gospel, but considering that… why is the church full of people with information , but aren’t inspired to embody the information they know?? Something’s not working there! I’ve seen many times great preachers painting compelling, challenging messages, and then when people try to “live-out” that message, they’re discouraged by the “spiritual-police.” Talk about confusing the sheep! The church has to allow for implementation (living out the values being preached) of these sermons once they are preached, by creating an overall environment that allows, or actually welcomes challenge. I think the church makes it difficult for preachers because many congregations (leadership within especially) expect preachers to preach more for comfort than challenge. And, if the preacher is strong enough to preach a challenging, perhaps even confronting message, when his people start to implement the values he is preaching– a strong Christ-like life, it makes life-long “church-goers” very uncomfortable and they find a way to manipulate that person (maybe even the preacher!) back into a comfortable mindset and setting.. kind of a way of being a good “church-goer” again! Jesus can’t be please with that. You’ll hear that challenge is welcome in church, but that’s not reality. Most churches are totally comfort-based, whether they acknowledge it or not. This is tough on preachers and people who are more challenge-based. Many folks in the pews want to get out there “do something” in their communities and lead people to the Lord in their communities. But, instead they’ve been “talked-to-to-death!” Having sat in their pews for 20, 30, 40, 50 yrs. and listened to thousands of dynamic sermons, many probably very inspiring and painted a compelling picture, but have no fruit. Jesus was comforting, confrontational, but his primary language was “challenge!” We need to allow that in our sermons, but ALSO have the courage to allow our people to implement it in the life of the church, regardless of who it offends once it has been preached! And, it will definately offend, feel awkward, and maybe even feel evil to many because many “church-goers” have never experienced it enough to really know what it is! lol. Reason; The healthy double-dose, constant bombardment of “comfort.” People miss Jesus in so many ways— We have softened him up, distorted his true image way too much. If He (Jesus) walked into most churches, instead of praying ‘to Him’, we would issue prayer requests ‘for him.’ The primarily comfort, nurturing-based image of Jesus has to go, and not return, and we gotta get back to preaching (and living out) a compelling, painting-oriented— and most importantly CHALLENGE-based gospel! God Bless.