A preacher took his car to the local mechanic who was also a member of the church where the evangelist ministered. The mechanic told the preacher that his car would need a valve job and would cost plenty. To which the preacher replied: “Go easy on me when you write the bill; I'm a poor preacher.” The mechanic quickly responded: “I know; I heard you preach last Sunday.”

   I never cease to be amused by this joke. We all have our favorite preacher joke, just like we have favorite political jokes, favorite practical jokes, and favorite knock-knock jokes. Perhaps all of us know a preacher that we would classify as “poor” or “boring” or “just not very interesting.” There are some preachers that I would drive one hundred miles to hear in a meeting, and there are some that I do not go to hear unless I have had a few cups of strong coffee. But upon what criteria do we judge a preacher as excellent or poor? Is an excellent preacher one who, as Ezekiel writes, is a “…sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument…” (33:32)?

   I know of several preachers who could with very little effort be professional entertainers. In fact, I have been very entertained by their preaching when sitting at their feet. Yet while I left those times entertained, at the same time I wondered if I had been edified. I am not indicting dynamic preaching; I am criticizing showmanship for showmanship's sake. Again, what standard do we use in judging the quality of the sermons that are preached?

   Noah preached 120 years without a single convert beyond his own family. By today's fashionable qualifications for a preacher, Noah would be classified as a horrible failure. Elijah's message was even less popular. Israel's royal family put a contract out on his life. The apostle Paul's preaching style was judged by the critics saying: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” (2Cor. 10:10). Friends and brethren,  we judge a sermon based according to New Testament rules: 1) is it truth? and 2) is it clear and simple? AMEN?

   Sad, but true, churches are often judged the same way, too. If a congregation is a fun-loving group, if it has lots of activities for children and young people, if they have a dynamic, outgoing preacher, if they have a beautiful, contemporary building, and if they have a large membership, THEN it must be a good church. Based on these criteria, the church at Philippi would have been a failure. They started out with only two families. The church at Corinth would have been a failure; they had several problems. The churches of Macedonia would have been failures; they were poor and probably couldn't afford nice buildings and fulltime preacher. Most of the New Testament churches would be failures if judged by some of today's misguided standards, but when judged with righteous judgment they are faithful and sound, holding forth the banner of truth. The same is true of local churches today. Perceptions have little to do with what makes up a good church. If the church is composed of people who are active in their love for God, actively seek truth, truly love each other, and love to teach the lost, then it is a good church. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24).

--- With brotherly affection, Andy