Sooner or later – saint or infidel – if you attend a single church or many different churches through the years, a sermon will shake your soul.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Proclaim the Word of God and stand upon it no matter what! Rise to the occasion and preach when it is convenient and when it is not. Preach in the full expression of the Holy Spirit—with wisdom and patience as you instruct and teach the people.  2 Timothy 4:2 TPT

I have been both bored and challenged by sermons.

I must admit that of the at least 3,000 sermons that I have preached, some have had the effect of melatonin on listeners while others challenged saints to become missionaries.

When I evaluate my own sermons or the messages of others, I use the “Four C’s” to discern mediocrity or life-changing power.

Confidence. I love bold preaching but I hate loud and obnoxious preachers. There is the power of inspiration that brings confidence to even technically bad sermons.  Preachers should listen and be faithful to what the Spirit says. They should also prepare, practice, and plan.

Many times, I have felt that I had just preached history’s worst sermon, then someone will come up and say, “That was great, it changed my life.” I want to yell at the parishioner, “What do you mean?! The message was terrible!” But then I realize, if I believe I have God’s word, I should preach confidently without regard to greatness.

I should not compare myself to Billy Graham, I should simply preach the message that God gives me. It’s also nice to know that God will use me even when I preach the proverbial royal egg of a sermon.

Content. Content includes knowledge and action. The best sermons have great ideas that have been implemented by the preacher’s lifestyle. The best content is not “Do what I say,” but “Do what I’m trying to do as well.”

As a Senior Pastor, I tried to encourage a team of preachers to preach the messages that they were living. To learn and live new ideas. I realized that I could not have 52 actualized sermons a year. They could not either, but all of us preaching what we knew and were doing produced great messages.

When I ended my preaching reign at my church, I felt that I was preaching the best sermons of my career. Simply because I was messaging 49 years of learned and lived ideas.

Conviction. Does a message create Spirit conviction? Conviction is the greatest edge of learning for a preacher.

Some don’t grow in ideas and seem stale, while others preach a great sermon but can’t prophetically challenge listeners for a decision. I listened to one preacher whose messages were progressively weak only to discover that he had a hidden sin growing, and finally discovered.

True conviction can’t be planned, organized, or branded. True conviction is an “at the moment” junction of the current lived lives of listeners; with the preachers prepared and then releasing spontaneous words; with the power of the Spirit.

True conviction in preaching brings:

Confession. The first sermon in the church was the Apostle Peter’s in Acts chapter 2. At the end we have those listening:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”  Acts 2:27 NASB95

A great sermon brings conviction, confession, and changed lives. I have sat quietly after my sermons and said, “What just happened?”

After my first sermon, 16 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After my last sermon at my church, I prayed with a young teenager to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

What just happened? Great preaching. I can’t accept credit as nothing happens without the Spirit of God. But it happened; I am in awe that he used me.

Great sermons. God uses them. Never, never, never stop listening to them! Messages aren’t perfect but God speaks through them.