On most weekends I have the privilege of preaching during gathered worship. That has been the case for the past many years. I have preached to the same church week in and week out through easy seasons and more difficult ones. Over the years, I have preached passage-by-passage through Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Colossians; along with survey series on Genesis, Exodus, Job, Jeremiah, Ruth, and many Psalms. I have spent well over 6500 hours laboring over the Bible and books preparing for the sermons I have preached. I have about 3000 pages of sermon manuscripts to show for it.
And I have prepared and delivered most of those sermons (90%+?) without a single person saying “thank you” or offering any appreciation at all. In fact, on balance over the years, I think I have received more criticism than gratitude.
So what is a preacher like me to do on a Monday after preaching his heart out yet again and hearing crickets in response? That is what I am trying to work through with this post. Here are 5 things that might help you keep your head in the game.
- Thank God for the crickets. If you’re like me it would be easy to let the praise of man go to your head. If people were to swoon over my preaching, I have a feeling I would start feeling like a rock star and forget that anything good in me and from my labor is ultimately and entirely from God. God has ways of keeping us humble. The silence might be a means of grace in our lives. So take a minute on Monday to thank God for the crickets.
- Focus on pleasing God, not man. Remember that you did not sign up for this work because you love the praise of man, or because you desire to please people, but to please the Lord. So on this Monday reflect on that. Did you faithfully exposit God’s Word? Did you invest the appropriate amount of time and energy into the work? Did you exalt Christ and make the gospel plain and seek to love God’s people through preaching? Then take joy in the pleasure of God. It is far better than the fleeting and fickle praise of man.
- Don’t assume people are not thankful. Some people don’t say “thank you” very often, and yet they may be thankful. Many people have likely heard you preach and thanked God for his Word and the way it was proclaimed and how the Lord used his Word and your sermons in their lives. Don’t fault people for not saying it. Maybe expressing gratitude to you just didn’t cross their minds.
- Make it your habit to thank the preachers you hear. When I hear a sermon, I make it a point to let the preacher know that I am thankful that he has worked so diligently to serve me and others and Christ by preaching the Word. The more expositional, the more grateful I am. I especially make it my habit to thank up-and-coming preachers. While being careful not to puff them up or overcompliment, I make sure that they know that I am grateful for their work. I mention specific aspects of the sermon that were especially helpful to me.
- Bury your thoughts about yesterday and put your nose right back into The Book for next Sunday. Another week means another sermon and, since it is Monday, it is time to dig in. Sunday is coming. Get to work.
There is only one “well done” you really want to hear. In all the strength that God provides, aim for that on Monday. Keep preaching the Word for the glory of God and the good of his people!
Oh, and if you are a preacher who faithfully preaches the Word each week: thank you.