Systematic Theology. Exegesis. Church History. Contextualization.
Liturgy. Pneumatology. Hebrew and Greek. Pastoral counseling.
These are all subjects that most pastors are either familiar with or have taken seminary courses on.
Transitioning from seminary to pastoral ministry is pretty crazy. You go from writing huge papers on how postmodernism challenges the epistemological assumptions of one’s praxis to writing sermons for diverse groups of people that range from being forced to attend to those who have been followers of Jesus for longer than you have been living.
Try crafting a sermon for that type of audience versus your seminary classmates!
After some time, you’ll hit your stride and some experience will help you exegete your audience in a helpful way. You’ll start writing sermons that are Christ exalting and applicable, and people will be really encouraged and challenged by your ministry.
And then you’ll talk to someone who tells you that your preaching doesn’t do anything for them.
Your first instinct will be to either punch them in the face, laugh nervously, cry or quit.
If you are wise, you’ll remember James 1:19 and will do your best to listen, be slow to respond and slow to anger. Of course, the vision of choking that person out may be tempting, so it needs to be constrained by the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Over the years, I’ve heard this statement a couple of times and I’ve talked to a lot of other pastors who have also heard this or similar statements.
Here are three observations I have about people who say these things:
1. You need to understand how to properly evaluate whether or not your sermons are “feeding the sheep.”
I fear that some pastors are more concerned with keeping their congregations happy than with keeping their congregations fed. But most of the pastors that I know are very concerned with being faithful in what they teach/preach.
Yet there’s something very peculiar about how devastating one person’s criticism can be! We will actually take that one person’s opinion and elevate it above and beyond the dozens or even hundreds of other people who think differently.
After encountering the “you-don’t-feed-me” person, you may even find yourself canceling sermon plans you’ve had and jumping to the conclusion that you need to preach totally differently than what you’ve been doing. After all, someone told you that you aren’t feeding them!
It isn’t necessarily wrong to consider making changes, but your concerns should primarily be in regards to how God feels about the matter. Are you talking about the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)? Are you faithfully preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:2)? Is your preaching focused on exalting Christ, clarifying the gospel and helping form the spiritual lives of those you serve? Questions like these are far more important.
So, should you do a series that addresses marriage and serves the majority of your congregation, or do a series on the “deeper” things of God like the “revelation of God’s seven spirits and how this all proves both the pretribulational rapture and young earth creationism.”
While the former may not meet everyone’s alleged needs (though it’ll meet most), the latter is a complete waste of your time. Yes, I did just say that a sermon on the seven spirits of God proving the pretribulational rapture and young earth creationism is vastly inferior in comparison to doing a sermon on what God has to say about marriage.