How To Criticize A Preacher

So you’ve heard a sermon and you’re not happy. You feel the preacher got it badly wrong in either his interpretation, his words, his manner, his length, his whatever.

What now?

Well, I’m not going to tell you exactly what words to use. I’m simply going to give you ten questions to ask that I hope will produce the right words and the right way to say them should you ever have to offer criticism to a preacher.

1. Have I understood him correctly? Give the preacher the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself, “Am I putting the worst possible construction on this?” Perhaps check with your husband or wife, “Did I hear this correctly…?”

2. Have I given this enough time? It’s rarely wise or helpful to immediately react to what is preached. Your passions will be high, but so will the preacher’s. Not a good recipe.

3. Have I prayed about this? Have you taken time to ask “Lord show me if I’m right here. Show me if this is important enough to take further. Help me to see if this is primary or a secondary matter?”

4. Is this just personal preference or biblical principle? We all have our favorite truths and our favorite preaching styles. Is this about bible doctrines and biblical practice or just my tradition or preference?

5. Have I thought about the best time and way to communicate? Neither Sunday or Monday are good days to approach a pastor about problems with his preaching. On Sunday, his adrenaline is still pumping. On Monday, he’s flat as a pancake. Best not do this in public in front of others but in private. Do it in a calm, gentle, and loving manner. As I’ve learned, do it personally rather than in writing or by email.

6. Am I doing this out of the right motive? Is my love and respect obvious? If it is constructive, designed to serve the pastor, then criticism can be incredibly helpful.

7. Am I focused or just spraying pellets? Never say, “And while we’re at it, that sermon last year….and here’s another thing…”

8. Have I considered the possibility that I may be one of many others doing the same? You may be the straw that breaks the preacher’s back.

9. Am I prepared to listen to his explanation and concede I was wrong? Are you genuinely open to be corrected yourself?

10. Is it in the context of previously expressed appreciation? It’s so much easier to listen to criticism when you know the person has your good at heart and wants you to thrive and prosper. The repeated critic can be much more easily ignored or dismissed.

On the same subject, here’s Thom Rainer with A Note To Those Who Criticize Me.

Check out

A Theology-Driven Life
Tim Brister helps us combine and balance theology and practice.

Australia Prime Minister Misrepresents the Bible
An echo of similar simplistic arguments we’ve heard in the UK and USA too. Sandy Grant writes a follow-up here. And here’s another commentary on the issue.

How To Host A Visiting Speaker
And here’s Part 2.

Eight Areas Where Many Ministers Are Unprepared For Ministry
#1 confirms what I wrote in Why Do Rookie Pastors Get Fired. Notice that all eight fall in the area of practical theology.

The Broke Pastor: Tell Your Money Where to Go
How one pastor got control over his finances.

Banning Prostitution in Church
Pastor Tom Lawson: “A man once mistook me for a hooker.  I know what you’re thinking.  No, I was not dressed in drag and I was as surprised and ultimately pretty offended by the mistake.  Perhaps more surprisingly, it all happened over the telephone.”

20 Helps to Sermon Listening

In What is Expository Listening, we looked at why the way we listen to sermons is at least as important as preparing and preaching them. Today, we’ll consider 20 ways to become a better sermon-hearer. Some of these points are taken from three helpful resources:

Before the Sermon

1. Read and mediate on God’s Word every day: Daily Bible reading whets our appetite for the main course on the Lord’s Day. We can’t expect to be ready to digest spiritual food if we’ve not been eating through the week. And don’t spoil your appetite by feasting on sin.

2. Limit media consumption: Most Americans consume 9-11 hours of media a day (James 1:21). In Preaching to Programmed People: Effective Communication in a Media-Saturated SocietyTimothy Turner explains how “TV watching and preaching are diametrically opposed to one another-one is visual, the other is rational; one involves the eyes, the other involves the ears; one creates passive watchers, the other requires active hearers.”

After watching TV and going to the movies and surfing the Internet all week long, you come to church and have to sit and listen to a lengthy sermon that requires a great deal of concentration and exertion you aren’t used to. You’re expected to go from being a passive viewer to an aggressive listener literally overnight. Listening demands a great deal of concentration and self-discipline. (Expository Listening, 42)

3. Use Saturday evening well: Tidy up the previous week, prepare for next week, get to bed early, discourage children out late on Saturday night.

4. Pray for yourself and the pastor: Do this daily but especially on Sunday. In many ways, “you will get what you pray for.”

5. Train yourself to listen: There are multiple resources on how to preach but, apart from the few mentioned above, very few on how to listen.

Preachers have many resources to train and equip them to become better preachers, but listeners have hardly any resources to train and equip them to become better listeners. This is astounding when you consider that the number of listeners far exceeds the number of preachers and even more so when you realize that the Bible says more about the listener’s responsibility to hear and obey the Word of God than it does about the preacher’s responsibility to explain and apply the Word of God. From cover to cover, the Bible is jam-packed with verses and passages that talk about the vital necessity of hearing and obeying God’s Word. God is very concerned about how preachers preach. But based on the sheer amount of biblical references to hearing and listening, it is unmistakable that God is just as, if not more, concerned about how listeners listen. (Expository Listening, 3)

The Sermon

1. Come to church in good time to get calm, settled, and focused.

2. Respect the silence of the sanctuary: This includes training your children not to distract others

3. Engage your body and soul in worship and prayer: Stir up your whole body, mind, and soul in the worship before the sermon.

4. Tell yourself that God is about to speak: Keep praying that He will speak to you through His Word.

5. Recognize that this is a team effort and take personal responsibility.

It is a joint venture between the preacher and the listener. Successful sermons result from the listener teaming up with the preacher much like a catcher works in unison with a pitcher. Both the pitcher and the catcher have an important role to play in the pitching process. The responsibility doesn’t all rest on the pitcher’s shoulders. (Expository Listening, 4)

6. Take brief notes: Enough to help you concentrate but not so many that it turns into a lecture that only engages the head.

7. Check that the preacher is preaching God’s Word: Not a critical Pharisaical spirit (Luke 11:54), but with a discerning Berean spirit (Acts 17:11).

8. Accept there will be times when the Word hurts you: Don’t react against this and shut down, but receive it and try to profit from it.

9. Build up good-will towards the preacher: Ill-will or malice towards the preacher is a hardener of the heart. It blocks the Word.

10. Try to find one thing to benefit from: You can usually find a crumb or two in even the poorest preacher’s poorest sermon.

After the Sermon

1. Talk about it with others: Share what helped you with friends and family.

2. Put it into practice: Obey and do the Word.

3. Be patient in looking for results: Sowing and fruit-bearing presuppose a gradual and time-consuming process of development.

4. Work on your soil: Soil can change from bad to good to very good. We are responsible for preparing the soil of our hearts (Mark 4:1-20).

5. Give feedback: Encourage preachers from time to time with specifics about how particular sermons helped you and in which way. And what happens when you’ve done all 20 things on this checklist and you decide that you have to give negative feedback? Well, tomorrow we’ll look at how to criticize your pastor.

Check out

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How Constant Screen Time Affects Our Lives
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Is Some Sexual Activity Wrong
Powerful and persuasive reasoning from Kevin DeYoung. Helpful starting point in any discussion about that is immoral.

The Mindset List
“Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall…the list was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.”

Why Do Christians Disagree?
Five answers from R.C Sproul Jr.

The Entire History Of The World On One Chart
This is quite incredible. Hope I get some work done today. (HT: Zach Nielsen)

Top 200 Online Resources on Christ in the Old Testament

Over the past 4-5 years I’ve been collating and cataloging online resources for teaching purposes. Recently I started posting some of these links on the blog. Previous posts include:

Today, it’s the Top 200 Online Resources on Christ in the Old Testament

Usual disclaimer: Link does not imply full agreement or endorsement. (They are posted in chronological order with the most recent first.)

A Biblical Theology of Exile/Restoration in the OT Prophets – Feeding on Christ

Against Heresies: Christ in the OT: Present or Absent?

Gospel-Centered Posts July 2013

Preaching [Insert Word] Jesus | Biblical Preaching

Christ-Centered Preaching and The Gospel Project | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Credo Magazine » C.H. Spurgeon on Typology (Fred Zaspel)

Yahweh Is the Sweetest Name I Know – Desiring God

Founders Ministries Blog: How Should We Preach Christ in Every Sermon? – Leviticus 18:5

Bryan Chapell on Christ Centered Preaching: Part One | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Bryan Chapell on Christ-Centered Preaching – Part 2 | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Credo Magazine » Typology as Prophecy (Fred Zaspel)

Reformed Theological Seminary Panel: Seeing Christ In The Old Testament | The Gospel Coalition

The Wisdom of the Son (Seeing Christ in the Proverbs) – Feeding on Christ

A Covenantal Approach to the Song of Songs – Feeding on Christ

Samson — Christ-Centered Preaching | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Preaching Christ and Commending Virtue – Trevin Wax

The Christ of the Bible from Renewing Your Mind Radio with R.C. Sproul

Credo Magazine » The Warrant for Typological Interpretation of Scripture (Fred Zaspel)

Mosaic Magazine » The Ten Commandments

BibleX: The Sermon on the Mount, Mosaic Law, and Christian Ethics

Book Review — Introduction to Messianic Judaism | Truth Within the Static

Is Jesus in the Old Testament? | Christ the Truth

Daniel Block’s Doubts About Christ-Centred Hermeneutics | Christ the Truth

Credo Magazine » Preaching the Old Testament (Timothy Raymond)

Psssst: Melchizedek!

Christ-Centered Hermeneutics | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Founders Ministries Blog: Why We Should Preach Christ in Every Sermon

The Trinity as Old Testament Book Club

The Ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer by Stephanie van Eyk | Ligonier Ministries Blog

The Blessed Cursed Tree – Reformation21

Christ-Centered Reading, Preaching, and Teaching | Project TGM

Take Your Vitamin Z: How Were People Saved in the Old Testament?

Christ our representative and the shape of evangelical preaching | The Proclamation Trust

The Songs of the Son (Seeing Christ in the Psalms) – Feeding on Christ

Matthew 5:17 | The Briefing

Christ-Centered Preaching (Part 1): The “Dilemma” of Christ-Centered Expository Preaching |

Do We Have to Mention Jesus in Every Sermon? | A Stranger in the House of God

Why Was Christ Veiled in the Law? – Feeding on Christ

BibleX: Messianic Theology of the Old Testament

6 Discontinuities between the Old and New Covenants | Andy Naselli

Gospel-Centered Links April 2013

The Messiah in the Old Testament- Credo Magazine

Preach the Old Testament as if Jesus Is Risen – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Jesus the Messiah

Death and Resurrection: The Typlogical Structure of Old Testament Redemptive History – Feeding on Christ

3 Principles for Preaching the Pentateuch by Daniel Hyde | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Christ Is Not Just Another Theme in the Old Testament – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Jesus in the Lions’ Den? Preaching Christ from Daniel – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Intended Allegory in the Song of Songs? | For His Renown

The Resurrection of Christ in the Old Testament- Credo Magazine

The Day of Atonement was a Copy of Christ’s Atonement by Sinclair Ferguson | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Jesus Christ, Anointed One by R.C. Sproul | Reformed Theology Articles at

Drowning in Leviticus | WESTERNexus

Allegorical Preaching: What Would Calvin Say? – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Preaching Jesus All the Time- Credo Magazine

The Bible’s Christocentric Structure | Strands of Thought

The Boice Center Lecture Series #1: Inerrancy and the New Testament use of the Old Testament on Vimeo

Slow Down! A Different Perspective on Christ in the Old Testament – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: Hosea 11 in Matthew 2

From Wisdom to WISDOM

The Holy Spirit in the OT from Renewing Your Mind Radio with R.C. Sproul

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sinclair Ferguson

Jesus Sings – Desiring God

Joy in Spite of Death

Calvin on Christ in All of Scripture – Justin Taylor

Seeing Christ in Every Chapter of the Bible Is Not a Late 20th Century Development – Justin Taylor

Who Goes There? | Cor Deo

How to Preach the Gospel from Every Part of the Bible- Credo Magazine

Our Only Hope: The Messiah (Psalm 89)- Credo Magazine

“On Preaching Christ from Daniel” by Sidney Greidanus « EerdWord

The Psalms in Christian life

This is priceless | The Proclamation Trust

Various Quotations on Christ in the Old Testament

Looking for the absent God

The Gospel of Jesus in the Story of Joseph – Trevin Wax

Preaching Jesus all the Time- Credo Magazine

The Bible is About Jesus | Secundum Scripturas

One Story of Salvation: Nancy Guthrie on Christ in the Old Testament – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Preaching Christ from Deuteronomy - The Gospel Coalition

Kingdom Through Covenant – Reformation21

Borrowed Light: In Defense of a Christ-Centered Hermeneutic OR A Reply to Dr. Eric Hankins

JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY by Frank Viola & Leonard Sweet | Beyond Evangelical |

Ed Stetzer – Teaching Christ from the Old & New Testaments

Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? | Blogging Theologically

Preaching the psalms | The Proclamation Trust

A Conversation with Andy Naselli- Credo Magazine

Jesus and the Psalms by L. Michael Morales | Reformed Theology Articles at

Who Is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?

Safety, Fulness, and Sweet Refreshment in Christ  –  Jonathan Edwards

On the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Part 6- Credo Magazine

Preaching the Person in the Old Testament | Biblical Preaching

The Trinity: Everywhere Taught in the Old Testament | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

To Fulfill the Law and Prophets | Ad Fontes

Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew – Reformed Forum

How Did Luke Use The OT in His Writing? | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

Christ-Centered Preaching Isn’t Anti-Trinitarian

Saturated with Christ | Challies Dot Com

Exodus 19:4-6 | The Briefing

Preaching Christ from Isaiah - The Gospel Coalition

Isaiah by the Day: A Conversation with Alec Motyer – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Jesus Is What the Old Testament Promised Him to Be – Kevin DeYoung

The Ultimate Theophany – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Christ in the Old Testament – Reformed Forum

How much should the OT influence our interpretation of the NT?- Credo Magazine

BibleX: Walter Kaiser on Job 19:21-27 and Resurrection

On the Third Day | Crossway

The Suffering Servant and Isaiah 53: A Conversation with Darrell Bock – The Gospel Coalition Blog

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens – Justin Taylor

On Preaching the Old Testament | Ordinary Pastor

Old Testament Narratives as Pictures, Windows, and Mirrors – Justin Taylor

The Challenge of Preaching Christ in Genesis – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Jesus As the New Israel – Justin Taylor

How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens – A Book Review | mgpcpastor’s blog

Anticipating the Coming of the Spirit! | Think Theology

Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

Book Reviews | Interview: Christ Centered Biblical Theology – The Gospel Coalition

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: Interpretation vs. Application | The Cripplegate

Christmas: Something Greater than the Temple is Here | The Cripplegate

Themelios | Review: Reclaiming The Old Testament For Christian Preaching – The Gospel Coalition

Preaching Christ in the Proverbs (Video and Audio) – Feeding on Christ

Pyromaniacs: Ashford Bible Conference 2011: Christ in the Old Testament

The Gospel According to Jonah – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Christ in Genesis « Resources for Studying and Teaching Bible

Book Reviews | Review: The Beginning And End Of Wisdom – The Gospel Coalition

How Could They Get It? | Challies Dot Com

Seeing Jesus in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job – Justin Taylor

The Wisdom of Solomon and the Greater Glories of Christ – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Book Reviews | Book-note: Help In Gospel-centered Bible Reading – The Gospel Coalition

Preaching Christ from the Wisdom Books - The Gospel Coalition

Where Do We Find Jesus in the Old Testament? – Desiring God

How the New Testament Writers Understood the Old Testament – Justin Taylor

Does the Old Testament Teach That Salvation Is by Works? « Blogmatics

How Could God Ask That? – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Jesus and the Psalms by L. Michael Morales | Reformed Theology Articles at

Christ in the Temple « Christocentrism

Wisdom Christology: An Interview with Dan Ebert – TGC Reviews

Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: Why a Cloud?

Christ in OT « Christ the Truth

Reformation Theology: The Reformers’ Hermeneutic: Grammatical, Historical, and Christ-Centered

What Do You Mean When You Talk about Christ in the Old Testament? – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Blackham-Goldsworthy Debate – Dr. Blackham

Monergism : Christ in the Old Testament

Christ’s Inner Life…In the Psalms « unashamed

Banner of Truth Trust General Articles

The Gospel-Driven Church: Guidelines for Finding Christ in the Old Testament

True & Better on Vimeo

What I Have Learned after Years of Preaching Christ in the OT – Justin Taylor

PT Media Papers | The Proclamation Trust

Ligon Duncan – A Gospel Exposition of the Ceremonial Law

Koinonia: Following Jesus, The Servant King: Blog Tour

Pyromaniacs: Christ in the Old Testament: introductory challenges, parameters, cautions

Pyromaniacs: Relationship of Old and New in Messianic Prophecy: Huh? and Oh!

Law and Gospel

Triablogue: The Evidence Of Biblical Prophecy

Westminster Seminary California – Resources – Him We Proclaim by Dr. Dennis Johnson::

Pyromaniacs: Christ in the Old Testament: a bibliographical colloquium

Office Hours: Dennis Johnson on Preaching Christ From All of Scripture « Heidelblog

Preaching the Gospel in Judges – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Christ-Centered Zeal: Some Concerns from an OT Scholar – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Koinonia: Thoughts on Egypt and prophecies in Isaiah 19 by Walt Kaiser

The Relationship Between the Old Testament & the New Testament | SBC Voices

Ligon Duncan – Preaching The Gospel From The Book With The Worst Title In The English Bible

Keller on Jonah and Jesus – Justin Taylor – Edmund P Clowney Legacy Corporation

Was Salvation Through Jesus Christ in the Old Testament? « Gospel-Centered Musings

New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Roger Nicole

T. Desmond Alexander Audio Lectures and Sermons - Feeding on Christ

Help! I’m Looking for Jesus in the OT – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Echoes of the Old Testament in John 1:1-14 - Feeding on Christ

Exile & Restoration in the Death & Resurrection of Christ - Feeding on Christ

Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: The Grace of God in the Bible

Against Heresies: Whose Son is the Christ? The Ref 21 M’Cheyne Blog

Feeding on Christ » Blog Archive » The Apostolic Hermenuetic: Preaching Christ From All The Scriptures

Against Heresies: As the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him (1)

Feeding on Christ » Blog Archive » Theocratic Case Laws and the New Covenant Era

Feeding on Christ » Blog Archive » The Christology of Sacrificial Countdown at the Feast of Tabernacles

Finding Meaning in the Pentateuch | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

The Messianic Hope - Is the Old Testament Really Messianic?  || B&H Academic

If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me :: Desiring God Christian Resource Library

What is Expository Listening?

You have the right to expect that your church’s pulpit be filled by prepared men preaching prepared sermons. You have the right to expect preachers who have prepared themselves spiritually and have also spent many hours preparing their sermon. You have the right to expect preachers to pour themselves out in preaching the Word of God to you. And you have the right to expect those who preach to pray for you after the sermon is over, that God would bless the Word to you. Before, during, and after the sermon, you have the right to expect preachers to exert and expend themselves for your spiritual welfare.

Rights and Responsibility
But what about you? Is all the activity on the preacher’s side and just passivity on yours? You do little or nothing before, during, or after the sermon? You have all the rights but no responsibility? Not at all! You equally need to pour yourself out, to exert and expend yourself before, during, and after the sermon if you are to benefit from it. In fact, Charles Spurgeon said that the hearer needed to prepare even more than the preacher!

We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than the preacher.

Preacher and Hearer
This kind of pre-sermon preparation is part of what Ken Ramey has called Expository Listening. We are used to talking about Expository Preaching, the kind of preaching that explains or exposits verses of Scripture. But Ken’s point is that Expository Preaching requires a special kind of listening, Expository Listening, which, like Expository Preaching, requires work before, during, and after the sermon. Ramey says:

Preaching is a joint venture in which the listener partners with the pastor so that the Word of God accomplishes its intended purpose of transforming your life. Nothing creates a more explosive, electrifying, life-changing atmosphere than when the lightning bolts from a Spirit-empowered preacher hit the lightning rods of a Spirit-illuminated listener.

Christopher Ash put it like this in Listen Up! his booklet on listening to sermons:

Preaching that makes a church Christ-like under grace takes a double miracle: the sinful preacher must be shaped by grace to preach; and sinful listeners must be awakened by grace to listen together week by week in humble expectancy.

Discouragement and Encouragement
Judging by the parable of the soils, this kind of Expository Listening is quite rare (no greater than one in four hearers) – that’s discouraging. However, the same parable also talks of one seed being multiplied to produce thirty fruits, sixty fruits, and even a hundred fruits. That’s the encouraging fruitful power of Expository Listening.

Tomorrow I’ll give you 20 helps to Expository Listening.