At Mars Hill Church they have what they call a preacher’s “Qualifying Day”. This year they have about 50 elders at Mars Hill, and about that many more in training.
So they thought it would be fun to give them all a different text to preach a week ahead of time, then have a ‘preach off’ of sorts… They’ll show up to preach and be evaluated.
Well… only 3 will preach in the first round (date) of competition.
Mark Driscoll wrote on his blog:
This will be fun…for some of us. For our Mars Hill version of American Idol for preachers, I’ll play the part of Simon Cowell, minus the deep v-neck and British accent. Joining me on the judging panel will be Dr. Justin Holcomb who runsResurgence, Pastor Scott Thomas who runs Acts 29, and Pastor Dave Bruskas, the executive elder who oversees all our churches.
In anticipation of this event, I made a list of 16 things that I’m looking for in a preacher or teacher’s sermon:
1. Tell me about Jesus. Connect it all to Jesus. If you don’t mention Jesus a lot, you need to do something other than preach. And tell me that Jesus is a person, not just an idea. Help me to not only know him but to also like him.
2. Have one big idea. Hang all your other ideas on the one big idea. Otherwise, you will lose me or bore me.
3. Get my attention in the first 30 seconds without being gimmicky. Get to work. Don’t “blah blah blah” around, chitchat, or do announcements. That will make me start checking my phone. Get my attention, and let’s get to work.
4. Bring me along theologically and emotionally. Preaching is not a commentary. Commentaries are boring for even nerds to read. Your job is to do the nerd work and bring it to life. Raise your voice, grab my affections, and bring the living Word.
5. Make me like you, trust you, and respect you so that I can’t dismiss you. If you want me to follow you, you have to get me to that point.
6. Avoid Christian jargon and explain your terms. The average person has no idea what fellowship means, or even God for that matter. So, tell us what you’re talking about and don’t assume we have your vocabulary.
7. Don’t have points as much as a direction and destination. Take me somewhere. Take me to a place of conviction, compassion, conversion, etc.
8. Don’t show me how smart you are, because it makes me feel dumb. I assume you’re smart since you’re standing up talking and we’re all sitting down listening. If you quote words in some language I don’t know, or quote dead guys to show you’re a genius, that makes me feel dumb, which doesn’t serve me well. Don’t come off like that kid in school that the rest of us wanted to give a wedgie to every time they raised their hand.
9. Invite lost people to salvation. Some people in the seats aren’t Christians. So, tell them how to become one. Talk about sin, Jesus, and repentance. At some point in every sermon just do that. If you do, people will bring lost friends. Don’t be a coward.
10. Whether it feels like a wedding or a funeral, be emotionally engaging and compelling. Some sermons are a funeral—convicting, deep, hard hitting, and life shattering. Other sermons are a wedding—exciting, compelling, encouraging, and motivating. Pick an emotional path. Have an emotional trajectory to the sermon, not just a theological point. If you pass the audition and get to preach publicly, have the entire service flow emotionally. If we do wedding songs after a funeral sermon, I’m emotionally confused. Likewise, if we’re singing melancholy hymns after a big motivational sermon, I’m also emotionally confused. So, you and the guy in skinny jeans with the guitar have got to get this figured out together.
You can find the last 6 here: 16 Things I look for in a Preacher | Pastor Mark.