Mondays are probably the worst day of the week for pastors and preachers. I don’t even do it full time, and I’ve experienced the roughness of Monday. Whenever I’m in the pulpit, I tend to experience an interesting combination of being energized and completely exhausted. Preaching the Word and seeing people “get” it is awesome—but by the time I get home, I’m ready for a roughly 100 hour nap. For me, it usually takes until mid-day Tuesday before I’m feeling back to normal.
Because I’m not in vocational pastoral ministry, one of the things I don’t have to deal too much with is criticism. I parachute in and out, so I don’t get criticized (at least, I don’t get to hear it in my inbox). But I’ve no doubt that many pastors dread looking at theirs on Monday.
It’s easy for us when we leave on Sunday morning to start picking apart the message. As we consider, it and weigh the pros and cons, sometimes the things that stick out as a negative start eating at us. And so maybe we fire off an email and feel a lot better, having got it off our chests.
Now, I’m not against criticism, obviously, but I’d be careful sending that email. As Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert point out in their book, Preach, your criticism of your pastor’s message “should always be gentle, even if they are firm.” Speak well, speak clearly if there’s something legitimate, but don’t fire off a long list of problems and fail to leave any room for encouragement.
Your pastor doesn’t need to hear how you don’t care for the Bible translation he used; he probably doesn’t need to be engaged on a lengthy debate on a nuance of a difficult to interpret text. You can probably cut him some slack if he preached a right message but made an unusual choice of text for his launch point.
If you must offer critique (and it is an “if”—many churches have an established sermon review process in place, so you may not need to worry about it), do so carefully, charitably and out of a desire to see your pastor improve. Tell him what you appreciated about the message, what God is teaching you through it and, if there’s something that is bothering you, ask about it in an open-ended way.
And… maybe wait until Tuesday to send that email. It might make Monday a little easier to get through.