Every week people all over the world sit down to listen to a sermon. Many of them are preached by godly men who want to see their sermons make an impact, pastors who care about the people who show up at their churches. Yet sermons are easily forgotten, and lives move on as if nothing happened. Opportunities are missed.
There are a variety of reasons, but here are six reasons your sermon gets ignored:
1. You aren’t interesting. You are a boring speaker with bad stage presence, a monotone voice and you don’t have an interesting delivery or content. Is this harsh? Maybe. The reality for the people who attend your church every week is they can listen to any number of sermons online, they can check social media during your sermon, they can think about SNL the night before or what they’re going to do tomorrow. At the very least, for your sermon to not be ignored it must be interesting. You must be interesting.
Do you care about your topic? Do you have a passion for your topic? Many pastors do not have a passion for what they are preaching on, and this comes through. They are preaching because it is Sunday and that’s their job. This doesn’t happen every week, but it happens and your church knows it.
2. The passage didn’t make an impact in your life. We are interested in things that made an impact in someone’s life. We want to hear about why someone started and kept a new diet, how someone got out of debt, made a change in their marriage. We are interested in things that made an impact in someone’s life and want to know how it can make an impact in our life.
How did the passage you are preaching on make an impact in your life? How were you convicted this week as you worked on your sermon? Tell us. What changes are you making in your life because of this passage? Tell us.
3. You aren’t preaching to anyone there. This is so common and easy for pastors to miss. They preach to people who aren’t there. Many pastors and church planters preach to the podcasts they listen to or the blogs they read instead of the people filling the seats. Many sermons are over the heads of people or not applicable to where people are, but fall more in the category of things that the pastor is interested in, the latest theological book he just read or the debate raging among Ph.D. students online.
4. You are tired and unprepared. Preaching and ministry are tiring. It happens every seven days that you need to think of something to say and do it well. Yet if you preach on a regular basis, my guess is that this is one of the favorite parts of your job. This means you need to keep yourself fresh. You need to read good books that stir your soul and challenge you. You need to take breaks from preaching so that you can recharge and stay fresh. I’ve learned that 10 weeks in a row is the maximum I want to preach, and then I need a week off from preaching. This is good for my church, too, because they get to hear other communicators.
5. You didn’t tell anyone why it mattered. You didn’t have a clear next step for your sermon. Your sermon prep is not done until you can unpack how we should live in light of the passage. And don’t say, “That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.” That is lazy. While the Holy Spirit convicts and moves, he uses you as well. If it was just the Holy Spirit’s job to apply a text, you wouldn’t need to say anything at all; we could just read the text on our own and go from there.
6. It wasn’t time for them to hear it. I’m hesitant to put this one. Not because it isn’t true, because it is, but because it is easy for pastors to use this as an excuse. When you preach, though, not everyone is ready to hear it. Most people do not take the step of change, following Jesus, etc., the first time they hear a truth. It takes multiple times. This is encouraging for us as pastors but can easily become a crutch. Sometimes the reason people aren’t hearing is because of the messenger, not the message.