Always remember that we are seeking to help the congregation digest the information presented in the sermon. There are times when this discomfort is due due to the powerful truth presented. We must always remember that the truth will cut at times. But we also must be sure that it is the truth that is doing the cutting and not us.

Sometimes we force discomfort on the people. We can do that in a few ways.

Don’t Force The Response You Want

The first is when we are expecting and attempting to force a particular kind of response that we want to hear or are used to hearing. You know the preacher who shows up at the conservative Presbyterian church and castigates the people for not saying amen. We use words like: “Do you hear me!!!….Amen Walls!!!!” “I feel like I’m among the frozen chosen.” These and other kinds of statements can serve to not only cloud the message, but could actually shut off its hearing by some congregations.

Please note, sometimes these same words are used to add a bit of levity to break up a particularly hard point, or to connect to a congregation that truly is responding and understanding. However, some preachers hear other preachers use these devices effectively and then seek to use it as a club on folks who show emotion in other ways.

Remember Different Responses by Different People

I remember in my Intro to Homiletics course, taught by Dr. Brad Braxton, where Dr. Braxton showed a sermon where he preached in an urban African American Baptist Church. He ended the sermon with whooping, the people were showing their connection in verbal ways. Then Dr. Braxton showed a video of himself preaching to an affluent predominantly white suburban Baptist church. Dr. Braxton still was Dr. Braxton, he still was earnest. While he didn’t whoop, he did show his usual animation. The people weren’t shouting, there may have been an “amen” here and there, but you could see the big beaming smiles on their faces during the “celebration” of the sermon. Dr. Braxton then sought to emphasize, these people were responding in their own way, just as the other church was responding openly and verbally.

I repeat, sometimes smiling and shouting is not the appropriate response to the messsage. Sometimes there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as the congregation realizes the truth and its need to live in it, but always follow the simple rule “let the truth do the cutting and not you.” Always stay true to the message that you are pressenting. Ss preachers, it is your job to see if the connection is happening, not by expecting the response of an urban African American Baptist church, but by discerning what is going on in that particular congregation by a reliance on the Spirit and the Word.

11 thoughts on “Everyone Doesn’t Respond the Same Way

  1. Elder Cox,

    This is a wonderful article. I remember some fourteen years ago when I started preaching, a fellow minister, who was conducting a workshop on worship and also served as the Director of Christian Education at her church quipped, “You worship God in your way an I’ll worship God in my way.” Back then, I was too young in the ministry to understand what she meant, but I soon understood that appreciate for the message and be communicated weeks or even months later and cannot be judged by immediately verbal or physical response.

  2. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:


    It would seem that we often fall into a couple of categories. We either condemn those who make too much noise worshiping (largely in a previous era, but does still happen), or we condemn those who sit there and do not worship with much noise (this is the common thing today as we question people’s spirituality because they have the audacity to sit there while God has done so much for them)

    Both sides are exhibiting a spiritual chauvinism…

  3. Pastor Frederick D. Harris says:

    Amen, “let the truth do the cutting and not you.” Once I’ve prayed, studied and prepared a message for the congregation I’m still learning to let the spirit move the people.

  4. Damien Bonner says:

    Good article. I recently preached to a congregation without a Pastor that was celebrating Church Anniversary and I did not get the response I was looking for and I was a little disturbed. But this article sheds light on the matter. They DID respond. In their own way.

  5. Dr. Anthony R. Watson says:

    I think that preachers today place too much emphasis on targeting the emotional centers of the congregation, rather than the intellectual centers. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it this way, “We have more religion in our hands and feet than we have in our hearts and souls.” In other words, in the Black church traditionally, there is more inspiration than information projected from the pulpit. This is one reason why Biblical illiteracy is so prevalent. Most people in the congregation respond to “how” something is said, rather than focusing on “what” and “why” something is said. I’ve witnessed folks shout all over the church simply because the preacher said the word “early” five or six times. Here is a common scenerio:

    Saint 1: You know, we had a great service today and the Pastor just preached this morning.

    Saint 2: Really? What did he say?

    Saint 1: I don’t know what he said, but he preached this morning!

    There is something definitely wrong with this picture.

  6. Anthony Smith says:

    Somebody help this young minister, is either reaction to the hearing or preaching of The Word supported by scripture?

  7. Darren Lucas says:

    That’s the point that came to mind after i read this powerful article, the pastor really preached this morning but i don’t know what the sermon was about, in times like these we need to hear the word and not just hearers but doers of the word. What good is it if the shouting is a shout of tradition and not a move of the Holy Spirit, that’s so true everyone doesn’t respond the same way.

  8. I can identify because I have responded to sermons more conservatively because I was thinking and reflecting. There are times where I exhibit more of a emotional response to the message. My point is that people respond to the message depending on what that message is and how it is relating to their lives at the time.

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