You just stepped down from the stage and you know it. Your wife knows it too.
You preached a dud. At least you think you did. And probably a number of people in the church thought so as well.
But what are you to do? Wallow? Sulk? Lament? Weep? Let me rephrase the question. What are WE to do. This post isn't just for you; it's for me too.
I Got My Ph.D. in “Dud”
I write this post as an expert. I preach duds. At least, I think I do. I don't say that to grab encouragement (though I'll take it!) and I also don't say that to question my gifting. I am sure of the Lord's calling and also sure of reality. Don't be shocked, but sometimes, preachers preach duds. And God has His purpose in them.
Even our heroes bring a dud from time to time. I've heard duds from Keller, Piper, and Chandler. At least I thought they were duds.
But let's get back to the point. You just preached a dud and it's time to recover. Now what? Sunday afternoons can be brutal for a pastor. You are laying on the couch, grieved over:
what you said
what you meant to say
what you forgot
what you should not have said
how your outline didn't work
that you had weak exegesis
that you didn't hit any points
that you gave weak illustrations
that you fumbled the intro
that you butchered the conclusion
how you went way over time
Change Your Thinking
Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn't, but I used a key phrase three times since you've started reading. Did you catch it? Here are the three instances: “At least you think you did; At least I think I do; At least I thought so.”
The “dud” is in your (our) eyes. You thought it was a dud (I'm sure others did as well). I thought my sermon was a dud (I'm sure others did also). I thought Piper's was a dud (I'm sure others did too). But you know what else is true? Others were blessed by it. Others thought that you preached one of the most helpful messages they have ever heard. Sure, you thought it was a dud, but someone in the church was meant to hear that sermon according to the gracious providence of God.
The first thing we should do is change our thinking. That sermon may not have been crafted by God to immediately bless everyone, but it was designed to instantly hit another.
Gospel Ministry is a Seed…Give it Time
Reread that last sentence: “that sermon may not have been crafted by God to immediately bless.” Consider the truth that is tucked away in those words. That sermon may not immediately bless, but God knows what it may do over time.
Your main points may not have blow anyone's socks off, but maybe the Scriptures you referenced got tucked in their heart. Now a saint has been armed with the Word of God. You didn't intend that, but God did.
Our job is to throw the seeds of God's truth upon the people that God has given us. The Gospel ministry is a seed and growth takes time. We have no clue what fruit may be harvested weeks, months, and years after a sermon or collection of messages.
I remember receiving a text message that read, “Hey, I never told you but those messages you did on the Glory of God changed my life forever.” I had no idea. When did I hear about this? At least two years later. Brothers, don't immediately judge a dud but trust God's providence.
Believe the Bible and a Prophet Acquainted with “Duds"
Do you believe Isaiah 55:10-11? Do you? Isaiah had a rough crowd. He may have felt like a dud. But listen to what God told him and is telling us:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God's Word will never return to Him empty and void. It will accomplish the purpose that He designed. Your sermon may not accomplish your purpose but it will accomplish God's. Maybe we need to revisit our vision for preaching. Is faithfulness our goal? Or is it preaching slick sermons?
In your sermon, did you read the Bible? If so, God is at work. God is at work even among those who proclaim the Word from a sinful motive.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18-19)
This isn't being simplistic, this is being Biblical. God is at work and we don't even know it. He may even keep you from knowing it. He will grow humility in a preacher. And He might want to do it by making you depend more and more on the Spirit and not your sermon skills.
So, you preached a dud. Learn what you can and move on. Don't pout over your paper airplane that didn't take off. Start over. Refine. Pray. Seek. Pray. And pray.
Remember, God works with duds. Look in the mirror.