How To Move On After You Bomb a Sermon
It’s never fun. In fact, it’s painful. You preach an awful sermon. You lay the proverbial egg. Sometimes it doesn’t hit you until after the message is preached. Most times, however, it comes right in the middle – when you realize the congregation isn’t with you and you aren’t with them. It’s then you want a redo. You want to go back to the study. You want to wrap it up and let everyone get on with their day. You feel like you are stirring wet cement that is getting harder and harder by the second.
At the first church I pastored, I remember preaching a series through the life of Elisha. After delivering a messy and fuzzy sermon from a very obscure text, one of the deacons of the church shook my hand and asked, “What was that?”
I didn’t have an answer.
It happens. If you’re like me, it happens way more often than you care to admit. I wish I could say that after you preach several hundred sermons it goes away. But I would be lying.
What does a preacher do when he knows he bombed? To be sure, there are times when it was just the perfect storm for a rough Sunday morning. Nothing needs to change or be adjusted. You need to pick yourself up and look forward to the next Sunday. Even then, however, the preacher needs to humbly evaluate key areas and learn from the experience.
Below are five key ways to help you get up, dust yourself off, and move on:
#1. Trust that God’s Word never returns void and take a nap.
At the end of the day, if the Word was read and some explanation was offered, you won. It was the only truth many people heard that week. You probably planted a lot more seeds than you can imagine. God promises to never allow His Word to return to Him empty. Trust that promise and take a long, Sunday afternoon nap. Besides, although you need to evaluate the sermon (see below), it probably wasn’t as bad as you think.
#2. Be eager, willing, and able to learn.
Good preachers preach good sermons. The best preachers, who preach great sermons, understand they have a lot to learn and are eager to improve. Decent preachers go about the business of preaching, assuming they are really good. The best at preaching always strive to get better. When you feel like you bombed, see it as a learning opportunity.
#3. Evaluate the previous week.
To be sure, preaching a bad sermon is no respecter of time or circumstances. But I have noticed there are times when a rough message was a result of a rough week. Or, a mediocre sermon resulted from a weird week. Ask yourself if there was anything different about last week. Did you go out of town several days? Were there more pastoral needs than usual? Did you attend a conference and try to be one of the speakers instead of yourself? Did you return from a mission trip late in the week? Think through the previous week and evaluate what you can learn for next time.
#4. Watch, listen, and/or ask.
This is a good practice for every sermon you preach, but especially for the bombs you drop. Go back and watch the sermon. Listen to it. As you watch, ask yourself if you were trying to say too much or if you didn’t really understand the passage. Ask some people you trust if they noticed anything different. Ask them if they too felt the message was off.
#5. Ask yourself hard questions.
Were you lazy the week before?
Is there is sin issue you are refusing to deal with?
Is there a pattern of disobedience in your life?
Are you trying to be someone else, other than yourself?
Are you having fun, enjoying what God has called and gifted you to do?
When was the last time you rested, had some time off, or a vacation?
Please don’t misunderstand: Preaching a bad sermon may not be a result of any of these things. Similarly, really good sermons have been preached while men have been living in sin. A bad sermon is not necessarily the result of anything “bad,” and a good sermon is not necessarily the result of a vibrant walk with Jesus. However, asking yourself some hard questions is always helpful and a great way to make you a better preacher of the Word.