Four Reasons You Need Weekly Sermon Evaluation

Any preacher who has been through bible college or seminary knows that one of the most painful experiences of a theological education is preaching class. Preaching in front of a professor and your peers, opening yourself up to their critique, is humbling and often extraordinarily painful. My experience was no different. However, as painful as it may be, a good professor and a good preaching class can help improve your preaching in significant ways. I know that mine served to do just that. I have an undergrad in theology and an M.Div. so I took preaching in college and seminary. Both experiences helped me but studying preaching under Dr. Ben Awbrey at Midwestern Seminary was one of the most helpful experiences of my academic career.

As you take a preaching course, there aren’t many things most of us dread more than the preaching evaluation forms that your professor and classmates fill out to provide objective critique of your messages. It’s an incredible relief when you get to say goodbye to those things upon the successful completion of your preaching class. In light of that, you might think I’m crazy, but one of the helpful things I did as a pastor was to create a condensed, digital version of the sermon review form and ask a handful of trustworthy people in the congregation to anonymously fill it out each week after my sermon. I was careful to choose people that were representative of the demographic makeup of the church, and who would take seriously the responsibility of responding each week. Additionally, I was careful to make sure that the form was anonymous so that they could have freedom to reply as truthfully as possible.

The benefits here are probably obvious, but let me clarify a few of them.

1. It required me to constantly remain in the posture of a student.
The pastor is almost always in a position of authority at the church. I am a big believer that the pastor needs to regularly place themselves in the position of a student. If not, pride has the potential to grow unchecked in the pastor’s life.

2. The Lord regularly used it to keep me humble.
Related to the previous point, even when I preached what I thought was a great sermon, this little form reminded me how fallible I was/am. It was a good and regular reminder of how deeply I need the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Word if I am to ever be a good and faithful preacher.

3. It sharpened my preaching skills.
A few years of seminary or college is not ever enough to fully develop a preacher. This weekly exercise forced me to evaluate my preaching on a regular basis and helped provide for me tools to grow in my skill as a preacher.

4. It clarified for me missing elements in my sermon preaching preparation.
No one is able to see all of their weaknesses. We all need people we trust to lovingly call them out for us. As preachers, if we are not careful we insulate ourselves from helpful critique and then find ourselves only receiving critique that is harmful and not given from a spirit of love and affirmation. This helped remedy those problems.

You may not think this is a good idea, but in the off case that you do, I’d love to give you a free resource to help you kick this sort of reflective exercise in your own congregation. I’ve created a generic template that you can use in your own church as a Sermon Response Form. Be careful not to simply give out this link to those you want to critique you. If you do, I’m going to get their responses. 😉 But feel free to use this template to create your own free Sermon Response Form. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile and helpful exercise.

Click here to see the FREE template.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you think this is a good idea? Have you tried it before and, if you have, what advice can you give to others? Share in the comments below!

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Congrats to my dad, new President of the Minnesota-Wisconsin State Convention!

This afternoon my dad, Paul Fries, was nominated and elected as the new President of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention. I couldn’t be more excited and more proud. I have watched my dad for almost 37 years now, and can testify that he is a man of character, passion, integrity, faithfulness, love for his family, his church, his denomination and, most of all, love for King Jesus. My dad has spent his life showing me what it looks like to love and serve others. He is a man who deflects praise, who often serves in ways that no one knows about, and who has tremendous faith and is willing to step out and exercise that faith. My dad and mom, Cheryl, have modeled a strong, biblical marriage for 40 years and they raised 3 kids with sacrifice, love and commitment to show us Jesus.

My dad currently serves as the pastor of not one, but two churches in Richland County, Wisconsin; he is the pastor of Blue River Valley Church and the Interim Pastor of First Baptist Church in Richland Center, WI. The churches he serves are smaller; one is in a town of 5,000 and the other is a rural church located about 7 miles outside of a town of 1,000. As such he represents leaders from across the Southern Baptist Convention, but he also represents the average pastor across America who pastors smaller churches and who will never be known for their sacrifice and faithfulness.

I love the folks who make up the Minnesota-Wisconsin State Convention, and love the work they are doing for the Kingdom of God. Dr. Leo Endel, their Executive Director, is leading them well, and I am looking forward to watching my dad work together with Leo, their Executive Committee and the State Convention over the next year.

I think denominations and movements are led well when they are led by faithful leaders who model tremendous faith, character and sacrifice. My dad embodies these things, from where I’m sitting, and I hope he will serve as a model and encouragement to pastors and leaders all over.

Beyond all that, though, he’s my dad. In fact, even though I’m 37 and have kids myself, I still call him my daddy, and I’m not embarrassed about it. He is the first hero I’ve ever had, and I want to be like him more and more each day. I’m glad he’s elected because I think he’ll serve well, and is well honored to step into the role, but mostly I’m just proud because he’s my dad and I love him. Congrats Daddy, from your pretty proud son.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

I am holy.

iamholy_small

 

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14

God’s word says that we cannot see God unless we are holy. Seriously. It’s right there for everyone to see. Not only is it blatant, but it’s damning. Webster’s reminds us that to be holy is to be “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” (emphasis mine)

That’s just great. I am in deep trouble.

I am not holy. Not even close. I often have the market cornered on being arrogant. I really struggle with keeping my mouth under control. I am regularly lazy. I would love to tell you more about my weakness, but my pride would get offended if I did. My pride is so strong that I even mess up my attempts to grow in humility. Unbelievable. When I try to grow in humility, there is always an underlying desire to gain something from that humility. Maybe my humility will gain me respect, or maybe God will grant me some blessing, and so on. Good grief. I can’t even get humility right because my pride thumps its chest and gets in the way. This underlying pride undergirds all of our collective attempts to pursue humility.

On top of all this, the Bible tells me I cannot see God unless I am holy. It would seem that there is no more crushing truth in scripture than that. I fall short. Horribly, horribly short.

And yet there is hope. The truth is, I am holy; I am righteous. Even in the face of my unrighteousness. Once again, I’m serious. Because of my faith in Christ, the progression of my new life in him looks like this.

I am declared holy.

I am being made holy.

I am actually holy.

If there is a more powerful truth in scripture than the truth that God deeply loves me and is making me holy, I don’t know what it is.

I am declared holy. 

“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Imagine learning about a banquet. Not just a banquet, but banquet that will end all banquets. The banquet that will redefine what a banquet should be. Unbelievably, there is an open invitation to said banquet. Anyone who responds is welcome to attend the banquet. There is a catch, however. In order to gain admission into the banquet, you must be dressed exquisitely. This is a problem because you are poor and have nothing to offer as a means of acquiring the kind of apparel necessary for entrance into the banquet. At just the right moment, however, another person walks up to you and offers to trade your filthy rags for their Armani tuxedo. This is great news! It makes no logical sense, but you are thrilled nonetheless. This kind and generous stranger disrobes and covers you with their luxury apparel, while taking on your filthy rags. The truth is, you know that the luxury garments aren’t yours. You didn’t buy them – you couldn’t buy them – and you feel a bit like a pretender, but you gain access into the banquet, not because of your fine taste in fashion and closet full of fine apparel, but because a gracious stranger took on your filthy rags so that you might assume their grandeur. In theological circles, we would call this “imputed righteousness.” In Jesus’ perfect life and then death on the cross, he made his holiness available to me. As I bowed the knee to King Jesus, he covered me in the cloak of his righteousness. When God looks at me, he no longer sees Micah in all my filthy rags, but instead sees the glory of Jesus’ holiness covering me. In response to the covering of Jesus’ holiness I am declared righteous. The truth is that I am still, in a very real sense, the guy who is covered in filthiness, but because Jesus’ holiness covers my filth, God gladly slams the gavel down on the heavenly judicial bench and declares that I am, in fact, not guilty. I am declared holy.

I am being made holy.

The bible reminds us that long before the world was set into place God had a plan for us. The prophet Jeremiah points out to us in Jeremiah 29:11 that his plan is one to “prosper us” and “not to harm us.” Too often we miss the fact that this isn’t a declaration of coming financial prosperity or avoidance of pain. This is a reminder that, in God’s great plan and because of Jesus, God is making us like himself; he is making us holy.

“For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:29

This passage reminds us that God’s plan for us is to make us like Jesus. God is not satisfied to merely declare us to be holy (though that is certainly no small thing in itself), but has decided in his providence to work in us to mold us into an entirely different image – to actually make us holy. This, then, should be the natural progression of any who claim faith in Jesus.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ we are covered by Christ’s righteousness, and made into something entirely different than we were. This is true for everyone who claims faith in Jesus.

I am being made holy.

I am actually holy.

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead:Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Of course I don’t mean that, right now, I am actually holy. I am arrogant at times, but I would hole that I’m a bit more self-aware than that. I am definitely not actually holy – or completely holy – yet. That’s the great thing, however. I may not be actually holy today, but I will be someday.

In God’s eternal kingdom, as all competitors to that kingdom have been destroyed, God will make his children into perfect reflections of himself. This is kind of a big deal. Arrogant Micah, bitter Micah, jealous Micah and all the other unsavory versions of Micah will be no more. For those of you who have believed in Jesus, this is your certain future as well. It seems a bit unbelievable, I know. It would be understandable if you felt the need to pinch yourself in response.

I am holy.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

and the winner is….

We are so excited to announce the winners of the free trips to Israel. We had over 100 small church pastors from across the country register, and while we wish we could help each of them go, we are very excited to see two be able to travel with us.

In order to provide a fair conclusion to our contest, each person who registered was digitally placed in a database with a number assigned to their name. Once registration closed, we used an automated program that randomly generates numbers and asked it to randomly generate two numbers. Once we matched up the winning numbers with the winning registrants, we learned that these two pastors are going with us to Israel!

And the winners are….

  1. Rickey Fuller, Pastor of Beacon Light Baptist Church in Vernon, NY
  2. Tommy Rucker, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dunkerton, IA

We have contacted both men, and confirmed that they are able to travel with us. Thanks to everyone who registered! We pray that the Lord blesses you and the church that you faithfully lead this Sunday.

Blessings!

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.