Bad Sermons

This past Sunday the sermon topic was “Forgiveness†and after I was done preaching I sat down and asked for just that, “God forgive me for preaching such an awful sermon!â€

When you give 45 sermons a year a few of them are bound to be duds. No one is capable of doing a great job every week. It used to really bother me when I had a bad sermon—it would take half the week to get over it. Now I remind myself, “there is always next week.†A sermon is a transitory event. It is 12-15 minutes of the week. I share my thoughts on life and faith with the congregation, they take it as they will, and it is gone. Then it is time to begin work on the next one. A sermon isn’t a novel, or even an essay that is intended to be read over, it is gone as soon as it is over.

I’ve often found that I rate sermons differently than the listeners. Some sermons, like Sundays, are bad for me, but like this past week many listeners go out of their way to tell me how much they liked it and how much it meant to them. Other Sundays I’ll think I preached a slam-dunk and no one says a word about it following the service. Sometimes my preaching is best aimed at myself, other times it is best heard by others.

My problem this past Sunday was that I began with a bad joke. One of my preaching teachers in Seminary said that rule #1 was to never tell a joke. He said that humor is important to a sermon, but it should come out of the material, not be imposed from without with a goofy story. I knew Sunday’s joke was bad, but I used it anyway because I didn’t have anything else to start with. Since I didn’t believe my own joke was any good I had no hope to make anyone else laugh. And, no one laughed. A total and complete flop. At least I salvaged it by making fun of my bad joke.

Now I’m getting ready for the next sermon. Since we are going to be baptizing Connor Rowland this Sunday (I’m the Godfather!) and I am doing this sermon series on Christianity 101 I decided to preach on sacraments and what they mean. I’m already feeling better about it than this past week. I even have a good story from my own life for an opener. No more bad jokes!


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