As you may be aware, Acts 29 assesses church planters as part of an exhaustive assessment process that aims to evaluate, encourage, and develop the church planter. After submitting both an initial and primary application, the applicant and his wife may be invited to an Acts 29 Assessment Conference. At this conference, one of the key parts that we evaluate and assess is the applicant’s ability to preach. Preaching is a holy task and it is not something we take lightly, therefore, we assess accordingly. That being said, if you know that you’re being assessed and critiqued in your preaching, you can imagine how easy it could be for your sermon to come across as a performance and not worship, a show and not a sermon, an act and not a genuine guiding of your audience and yourself towards Jesus and repentance.
While we want to be faithful to the process of assessing a planter’s preaching ability, we don’t want to compromise our need to hear and be encouraged by the Word of God proclaimed. God can and will do the miraculous in and through bible preaching during any given Assessment Conference. We don’t want to miss out on the eternal things that God is up to because you reduced your preaching to a performance, a show, or an act.
We don’t want to miss out on the eternal things that God is up to because you reduced your preaching to a performance, a show, or an act.
As a way of helping those being assessed and, as a result helping us, I have taken upon myself to provide ten coaching principles to guide preparation and preaching prior to an assessment conference (or any preaching evaluation). I also believe this to be extremely helpful for any preacher who is growing in his ability and experience with preaching.
1. Try not to be nervous
We know this is like telling a groom not to be nervous at his wedding—but just know that the Assessors want you to preach well and they don’t want to bring any added pressure on you as you preach. Assessors aren’t here to throw tomatoes or “BOO!”. We all have had others listen and advise us on our sermons before. Nearly everyone else in the room will be preaching at some point – so there will be a great deal of understanding and empathy. The Assessors recognize that you’ll be a bit nervous and that you’re out of your element a bit—know this. We understand.
2. Preach from change, not merely for change
Remember, you are preaching a sermon, not reading a commentary. Study and prepare—but deliver what you have prepared only after it has affected you in a deep, meaningful, repenting way. Powerful and moving sermons typically come from where the text has changed and is changing the preacher. Be careful in only telling others how the text can change them.
3. Know your goal
Your goal is to honor and exalt Jesus in preaching, not to impress your assessors and evaluators. Be faithful to the text for the glory of God—not merely the wowing of the assessors or impressing the other pastors and planters in the room. As you preach, make it obvious that you are captivated by Jesus.
4. Be you
Be yourself when you preach. Only you can be you, and “you” is better than someone else. It will be awkward for all if you are trying to be someone you are not. As you preach—regardless of when or where you preach—don’t let it be obvious whom you watch the most on podcasts and video. Be you. God created you to be you—not you trying to be someone else. Preach as if you believe this. Get up there and have a blast doing what God has prepared for you to do.
5. Answer before it’s a question
Good preaching anticipates the potential for being misunderstood. Anticipate and clarify. Try to discover where people will get hung-up on a word or phrase and be proactive to answer their questions.
6. Deliver one big idea
It is better to preach one idea with clarity and practical application than several ideas that lack clarity or application—especially in a setting like the preaching assessment.
7. Preach as if you know what it’s like to fail
The goal of preaching is not simply to relay information, but to capture the heart of the listener. This happens when you speak of how the text has shaped your heart and hands – not merely informing your head. Authenticity and well-discerned vulnerability is key here. Pray for this. Now, don’t make this time a confessional booth but do tell of your struggle obey or how you have been convicted by certain aspects of the text—especially those places where it’s easy for the audience to feel the most guilt from failure.
8. Preach repentance
Good preaching not only tells the hearer what they need to know or do, but convinces them that it’s important for them to know or do it. Regardless of what we are being called to do or obey, we can’t do it perfectly. Preach the needed repentance here. Preach that Jesus obeyed perfectly for us, as us and also preach the importance of obedience and faithfulness—embracing and clarifying the tension here.
9. Don’t be longwinded
Don’t go over your allotted time. Prepare enough to where you know exactly how long your sermon will be. Be respectful of the others and their preaching slots. I’ve heard it said before that a good sermon is one with a dynamic introduction and a compelling conclusion—pushed together as close as possible. Of course that’s not to be taken literally, yet there is something to learn here. Brevity is an important aspect to preparing any sermon, especially a sermon in a preaching assessment. Prepare for this. Prepare enough for this. If you need to preach for two hours, you probably need only twenty minutes to prepare. If you need to preach for 20 minutes, you will probably need at least two solid days to prepare. Preach long enough to cover the text but short enough to keep it interesting.
10. Help us see Jesus
Get your audience to clearly see Jesus and you will have done your job.
In Mark 2 and Luke 5, we learn of the paralytic who had friends that lowered him down through the roof into the presence of Jesus. They knew that they couldn’t heal nor truly help their friend themselves but they certainly believed that if they could get their friend to Jesus that He absolutely could help their friend. Remember, you can’t help nor heal your listeners or assessors, yet we all need to be helped, encouraged, and healed in some way on the day of your preaching. Your job is to be clear in getting your audience to Jesus. You are simply to be a faithful friend who uses his rope (your sermon) to get his friends close enough to Jesus and leave them there in His presence for Him to do with them as He pleases. He is a better healer than you are. Get your audience to clearly see Jesus and you will have done your job.
No matter what part of the world you’re in or where your Assessment Conference takes place, we are for you and look forward to being encouraged and challenged through the preached Word that you will deliver. We are praying for you as you prepare.
Jeremy is the Lead and Teaching Elder/Pastor at The Axis Church in Nashville, Tennessee and serves as a coach to church planters. He also serves as the Area Lead for Middle Tennessee in the Acts 29 US Southeast Network. He and Jill have been married for 15 years and have four children. You can follow Jeremy here on Twitter.