This short booklet, Listen Up! by Christopher Ash is a good one for churches to stock up on and hand out to members and visitors. I’ve mentioned it here before. I appreciated the very last page of the book where Ash discusses how church members can encourage good preaching in their own churches (I’ve listed 6 of his 7 – and the emphasis is his).
1) Pray for the preachers. Pray specifically that they will work hard at the Bible passages (1 Tim 5:17) and preach them faithfully, passionately, and in a way that engages with us.
2) From time to time, tell the preachers you are praying for them and looking forward with expectancy to the sermon. That will be a great encouragement and incentive to them to prepare well.
3) Be there. You may be surprised what an encouragement it is just to have you there, and what a discouragement to have you absent.
4) Thank them afterwards for things you learned. Don’t flatter or just give them very vague comments about how good it was (if it was). Try to be specific and focus on the biblical content of the sermon rather than just stories, anecdotes, or illustrations. Tell them if there was something in particular that you found helpful.
5) Be prepared to be constructively and supportively critical. Ask the preachers to help you see where they got a particular point from the passage; this will sharpen them up if, in fact, it didn’t come from the passage or indeed the Bible. It will encourage them to stick to the Bible more next time. Be humble and respectful in the way you do this; remember, it is much harder to preach than it is to criticize preaching.
6) Relate to your preachers as one human being to other human beings. Remember that the best sermon by a remote preaching hero, heard on an MP3 recording, is no substitute for the word of God preached by a human being face to face with other human beings in the context of trust and love.