August 12, 2011

How to Criticize the Sermon (When You're the Preacher's Wife)

When I first declared my intention to marry Rob, my mom said to me, “Do you like his preaching? If you marry a preacher, you don’t have the option of leaving his church!” She was half joking. But only half.

It is God’s grace to us preacher’s wives that we get to sit under our husband’s preaching. I can say without hesitation that listening to Rob preach twice every Lord’s Day is a blessing to my soul. I love my preacher.

But, now and then, I’ve got a constructive comment.
Critiquing the sermon is tricky when you happen to be the preacher’s wife. So, in sermonic style, let me recommend four diagnostic questions and one practical suggestion.
1. Is the problem fixable? If your husband’s voice is nasal, his laugh hyena-like, or his nervous gestures too repetitive, don’t bother to bring it up. I try to honestly weigh whether my critique is something reasonably within his power to change.

2. Is the problem likely to be repeated? Your husband’s introductory illustration last Sunday was confusing and about four minutes too long. But, chances are, he’s never going to preach that same sermon again, so don’t mention it. On the other hand, if his sermon introductions are always rambling. . . .


3. Have you prayed about it? Preachers are God’s good gift to his church (Ephesians 4:8-12), and God is pleased to put His treasure in imperfect men (2 Corinthians 4:7). Praying about my criticism clarifies the issue. In seeking to pray “things that are agreeable to His will” (see Matthew 6:10) I can separate the issues that merely bug me from the issues that honestly detract from the ministry of the Spirit through the Word. And prayer also fosters love.

4. Does your husband know you love him? In any marriage, the balance of encouragement to criticism should fall on the side of encouragement. Criticisms are heavy (Proverbs 27:3), and they need abundant love to buoy them; the reason the wounds from a friend are faithful (Proverbs 27:6) is because a friend obviously and consistently has love for the other as his goal.

And a practical suggestion: Let your husband choose the time and place. When I’ve determined that my critique is worth sharing, I tell Rob, “I’ve got something to say about the sermon last week. Let me know when you want to hear it.” Then, I go on loving him, and, in an hour or a day or a week, when he’s ready, he’ll come back and ask me about it.

7 comments:

  1. Sometimes the sermon is preached again (in another church, a long time after the original), and I think, during the second preaching, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell him about that." In my case, it is usually a benign problem like an illustration that I know more about than he does. Early in our marriage, it was a reference to instant applesauce, which I don't think exists.

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  2. As a preacher, I like this. Especially the "let him choose the time and place." A critique delivered immediately after the sermon will either trigger our defensiveness(if we think the sermon was good) or discouragement (if we think the sermon was a dud.)

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  3. Wonderul tips thankyou.
    My husband is currently a preaching elder and covers 70% of the churches ministry.
    He has just been called as a Pastor and starts in January.
    He always asks me after a sermon how it went and how he felt during preaching it.
    I never critique on Sunday as he is normally exhausted after the services but if needed we tend to talk about it mid week.

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  4. I'm a Pastor's wife and I am finding your site to be a great resource! Thanks for your ministry to ministers!

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  5. This is a great article! Thanks for the pointers. My husband has often repeated sermons since we travel a good bit, so sometimes I have to mention something about illustrations. I usually don't say anything unless my husband asks, though. And thankfully, he has a very open spirit, and God is helping me to be more gracious.

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  6. Thanks for your encouragement, all! And it is a true blessing to have a husband who humbly receives the help of his help-mate.

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  7. Thanks for this! I really love the part about not saying it if it's not "fixable" or not likely to occur again. Then it just seems like cutting down and not building up, doesn't it? These are great guidelines.

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