A few years back my friend was having supper across from Jim Caldwell, then head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. During the course of conversation, he asked Caldwell, "How do you coach someone like Peyton Manning? He's such a rare talent." The coach asserted that it wasn't talent alone that caused Manning to stand out but his work ethic, his relentless quest to improve.
Coach Caldwell recalled coming to the Colts as the quarterbacks coach in 2002. He watched every game from the 2002 season so that he could analyze the 19 interceptions Manning threw that year. Caldwell met with Manning in July to review the video of the interceptions. When they met, Caldwell told him what he intended to do and Manning replied, "You don't need to do that. There were 19 interceptions, beginning in the second week when I threw three against Miami." Then, Manning began to recount from memory every single interception he threw, describing the wide receiver route and the defensive pass coverage for each play. One by one, Manning articulated what he could and should have done to avoid every interception. "He had it all in his head," said Caldwell. "He had memorized every single play, with attention to details that I didn't even see when I watched the films."
Too many preachers don't get better with more experience. In contrast, NFL quarterbacks are committed to rigorous self-evaluation and, because of it, they continue to improve.
Too many preachers don't get better with more experience. In contrast, Peyton Manning is committed to rigorous self-evaluation and, because of it, continues to improve even as his body ages. If the game of football warrants this intensity of focus on intentional improvement, how much more does preaching? The call to communicate the holy heart of God to hope-hungry people is worthy of the preacher's best efforts. Right?
Like Peyton Manning, preachers can improve their game through careful self-evaluation. But in order for the preacher to do this, it must be clear what a sermonic touchdown looks like. The Sermon Evaluation Form below reflects an attempt to sketch out how the preacher can throw a touchdown pass. A sermonic touchdown is faithful in terms of content, context, and character. The sermon must clearly and creatively communicate biblical content in a manner that connects with people in the preaching context and authentically aligns with the character of Christ and the preacher.
Here's how to get the most out of this form:
Find a preaching coach. Most quarterbacks who improve with time have a coach with whom they review game film. Your preaching coach could be a homiletics professor, a lay leader, or a pastoral colleague from another church.
Fill out the form four times per year. Invite your preaching coach to join you on a quarterly basis to review some game film from the preaching event. As you view the video of the sermon together, both of you will complete the Sermon Evaluation Form.
Meet to discuss; learn and grow. Invite your coach to share evaluative insights on your strengths and growth areas. An evaluative guide coupled with a wise coach can help you progress toward your preaching potential so that in time you are throwing more touchdowns and fewer interceptions.
SERMON EVALUATION FORM
CONTENT (Logos- What did the sermon say about God and the Gospel?)
Theology: What did the sermon reveal of substance about God—Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?
Gospel: Describe whether or not the sermon captured the essence of the Gospel by dealing honestly about the problem of human sin and hopefully about the grace of God?
Expository: Could you see clearly how the sermon flowed from the biblical text? Explain.
Structure: Explore whether or not the structure of the sermon had focus and flow.
Clarity: In one complete sentence, write the focus of the sermon:
⇒ On a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the LOGOS of the sermon: _______
CONTEXT (Pathos- How well did the sermon connect with the context?)
Images: Did any illustrations, stories, or metaphors from the sermon connect with listeners at a significant emotional level? If so, which ones and how did they appeal to listener emotions?
Relevance: Did the sermon connect with the situations of the listener's life in a relevant manner? If so, how?
Application: Did listeners come away from the sermon with a clear sense of why and how to live into the Gospel reality it proclaimed? Explain.
Passion: Do you think the preacher spoke with passionate conviction? If so, why?
⇒ On a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the PATHOS of the sermon: _______
CHARACTER (Ethos- Was the preacher congruent with Christ?)
Competence: Do you think the preacher was spiritually and mentally prepared for the preaching event? Why or why not?
Authenticity: Did the preacher communicate in a manner that was genuinely congruent with her/his personality and the character of Christ? Explain.
Delivery: Did the preacher's eyes, body, and voice help or hinder your receptivity to the sermon? Explain.
Love: How did the preacher, through the sermon, evidence love for God and for people?
⇒ On a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the ETHOS of the sermon: _______
Lenny Luchetti is the lead pastor of Woodland Church (Battle Creek, MI) and the author of Preaching Essentials: A Practical Guide and Preaching with Empathy: Crafting Sermons in a Callous Culture .