You worked hard on your Easter sermon and you hope it worked.
But was it effective? Beyond hearing the occasional "Good sermon, Pastor" as parishioners left the church building, how would you know?
If you're dedicated to improving your craft, now is an excellent time to review your Easter sermon. It's probably still fresh in your mind, but you've also got a little distance so you can appraise it more objectively.
What did work?
What might you have done differently?
What you can you take away from this Easter's sermon so next year's (next week's!) will be even more effective?
Backstory Preaching's definition of an effective sermon is:
As you read through this post, consider your Easter sermon in light of these six elements. Make notes about what worked, what didn't, what you should emulate next time, and what you should you do differently.
And if you really want to dive into this self-reflection, listen to or watch a recording of your sermon with these ideas in mind. You're sure to see and hear the good, the bad, and the in-progress.
1) Clear Message
In one short, complete sentence, can you summarize what you intended to say?
A clear message is concise and to the point. It conveys a specific meaning which can be readily repeated as a single statement and understood on its own.
Are you able to identify this statement? If so, how closely did your sermon come to staying on message?
2) Good News
The defining element that separates an "inspirational message" from a "sermon" is Good News.
Easter is a pretty easy Sunday to express Good News since it's the best news we ever hear: "The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!"
Beyond that obvious declaration of the Gospel, how did you express the Good News of Jesus' resurrection from death? What Good News did you want your particular listeners to take away and share with others? What aspect of the Good News did you hope they placed in their hearts?
Now, what did you actually say?
Do these two answers align?
3) Authentic to the Preacher
To be blunt, do you believe what you said?
Whatever aspect of the Good News you focused on, did it come from your heart, your faith, your trust in God? Did you say something you truly hope everyone who listened to you will believe just as much?
I ask because, after preaching the resurrection more times than we can count, we can take these extraordinary words or truths for granted. We can preach them out of habit, falling back on cliché instead of first pausing to ponder whether we still really believe those words are true.
An effective sermon comes from our deep, soul-level knowing of the Living God. This authenticity resonates with our listeners' deep, soul-level knowing of the same.
Did you preach something you really, deep-down believe?
4) Relevant to the Listeners
Really, truly, concretely—what difference does the Gospel make to your listeners?
The Gospel is relevant when listeners discover how how it offers meaning, sense, direction, or genuine hope for their actual, in-the-world, complicated, messy lives.
After all, there are millions of people who live perfectly contented lives because they find no intersection between the Gospel story and their own stories. But an encounter with the Gospel—a true intersection of Good News and humanity—produces change.
God speaking into the void. Christ in the manger. The Holy Spirit in the hospital room or the broken relationship or the seemingly irredeemable reality yearning for resurrection.
Did you name and explore the intersection between the Gospel and your listeners' lives?
5) Holding Their Attention
Easter Sunday is probably a harder Sunday than most to hold listeners' attention!
Children are antsy, there's glorious music and lots of it, and our "Christmas and Easter" attenders may only be warming the pews to make their mothers happy. With that much distraction, what's a preacher to do?
Clarity of message goes a long way, as does relevance.
When we say what we mean and mean something that makes a difference to the hearers, we don't have to get fancy.
Plain language, leading listeners smoothly from one thought to the next, and an anecdote that brings the Good News from the tomb into their living rooms is sufficient.
Did your listeners stay with you from beginning to end?
6) Invites Transformation
After Jesus told Mary Magdalene to go and tell the disciples that he was ascending to his Father and theirs, Jesus had to hope that she would.
Jesus had to hope she would bring his news to the others because she had the choice to keep the encounter to herself. Even though she was the first human in history Jesus entrusted to witness his resurrection, and she was the first in human in history asked to carry and tell that news, she wasn't forced to do so.
When she chose to say yes, she was changed in the telling.
Our listeners hear the Good News. They hear it proclaimed in Scripture. They see it in the living Body of Christ gathered. They taste it in consecrated bread and wine.
But they don't have to say yes to any of it. Why should they? They are not coerced to carry this Good News out the door to anyone else or even as far as their own hearts.
Why is God inviting our listeners to say yes to the Good News?
There's something better about living the Good News than not living it. When we say yes to God, Good News happens in us, to us, and through us!
Not abstractly. Not vaguely. Not theoretically. But really. How will a person will live differently, see differently, or be different as a result of believing the Gospel as expressed in your sermon?
Was that invitation compellingly offered?
Working together to make our sermons ever more effective is what we do at Backstory Preaching. Blog posts like this one, e-courses, camps, coaching, and weekly sermon prep support on our Facebook page are designed to help preachers become more confident, joyful, and effective in their craft.
And beginning April 16th, we're introducing a new way to collaborate and grow—and you're invited to say "Yes!"
Introducing The Collective
The Backstory Preaching Collective collects into one ongoing preaching lab the elements needed to become more effective preachers, all online.
We're pulling together sermon prep and planning, collegiality and conversation, spirituality and support with lectures and learning, for perpetual inspiration and growth.
- get weekly sermons done on time using a spiritual approach to deepen your relationship with God
- look ahead seasonally at the lectionary
- specially prepare for the high holy days
- hear from and talk with preaching professors, authors, and other thinkers who can take our preaching to the next level
- plus, we'll have the chance to integrate what we learn and put it into practice.
- And (just because it sounds cliché doesn't mean it isn't true) a whole lot more!