Dealing with the Duds- How to Respond After Preaching PoorlyJuly 26, 2013
You walk away from the study with hours, (sometimes days or weeks) worth of research, prayer, and meditation. Your exegesis is accurately sound, your outline is practical and fresh, your points are personal and illustrative. You have actually dreamed about your sermon, and with much anticipation you mount the pulpit to deliver the message that God has delivered to you. You strike the match and light the fuse; you wait for the fireworks to explode and for the crowd to stand in awe. And then it happens…absolutely nothing at all.
Can anyone say dud? I have preached my fair share of them.
Preaching is seasonal; that is why Paul said to be “instant, in season, and out of season.” I have preached with the scorching fire of summer, but I have also shivered with the cold spirit of winter. The pulpit is an unusual and ironic place. Sometimes I preach with just a thought, having spent very little time in the study, and God anoints with fresh oil. Then at other times I absolutely butcher the message, the delivery and the text, having spent countless hours in preparation.
The greatest and worst moments of my life have occurred while descending the platform. Duds, bombs, bunts…whatever you call them, they stink, and they discourage us. Instead of analyzing why they happen (because they have, they do, and they will), I would like to give a few suggestions on what to do when they happen. Here are some Don’ts for the Duds:
1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Word of God
Just because you and I fail in our presentation doesn’t mean the Bible has failed in its power. If you gave it your best and preached the truth, walk away with confidence knowing His word will not return void.
2. Don’t Listen to the Devil
Have you ever noticed that Satan loves to talk to preachers after church? He helps analyze every jot and tittle of your message. He will point out every nuance of your message. He wants to intimidate you and hinder you in your effort of sowing seed. But remember, he is a liar, don’t listen to him.
3. Don’t Feel Like You are the Only One Who Has Ever Preached a Dud
Every preacher, pastor, missionary, and evangelist that I know has fallen victim to the “dud.” And if they try to say otherwise…they are a dud themselves. None of us are infallible, and to think that we will be on our game every time is unreasonable. Some of the greatest preachers I know have missed it from time to time.
4. Don’t Forget that God is Sovereign
I have walked away discouraged by my own preaching only to have someone days later tell me how God spoke to their hearts. Remember, the Holy Spirit is at work. Do not measure the success of your sermon by the masses who hit the altars. God is not limited to a 10-minute invitation; He works even in our failures.
5. Don’t Get Bitter with Your Congregation
I have been there…sinking, going down for the count, giving it my all, trying to make the best of a bad situation while the audience looks like they waiting in line at the DMV. Their faces are blank, their eyes are closed, their voices are void of “amens.” You feel like a drowning man who is being watched by hundreds of bystanders who are thinking, “How long will it take for him to go under?” Don’t let resentment find a lodging place in your heart. There is nothing worse than a preacher with a grudge.
6. Don’t Lose Sight of a Dud’s Value
There is something very humbling about failure, especially in ministry. J.M. Barrie said, “All of us are failures; at least the best of us are.” And Fred Smith contends, “The absence of immediate success is often the mark of a genuine call.” Some of the greatest lessons I have learned about preaching, people, and presentation have come through the “dud.” Don’t walk away with with losing spirit, walk away with a learning spirit and ask the Lord what you can glean from the experience.
7. Don’t Take it Out on Your Family
Too often, in aggravation and frustration, our families suffer from our own failures. Let’s admit it, poor preaching can put the most seasoned man of God in a foul mood. Unfortunately, those closest to us have to deal with our moodiness and temperament after the failed efforts of exposition. Protect your emotions from volatility, and make it a policy to safeguard your family from negative preaching experiences.
8. Don’t Forget What it is All About
More times that I would like to admit I have to remind myself that it is not about my hurt feelings or frustrated spirit. What we do, what we say, who we are, our calling, our ministry, our labor, our efforts ultimately are to bring men and glory to Christ. This entire thing we call the ministry is about Jesus, not about us.
So I come to a comforting conclusion about duds…if I preach a dud, then it means I am preaching! and that my friend, is no dud.