How To Listen A Sermon
What does it take to be a good sermon listener? While I’d love to say that everyone who will hear me on a given Sunday morning has prayed for me during the week, looked up the passage I’m preaching on, gone to bed early on Saturday night, and begged God to speak to them during the sermon, that is likely not the case. Preachers spend the entire week working on the sermon and envisioning how it will go on Sunday morning. People in the pews do not. They are thinking about work, their own spiritual walk, the kids, March Madness, and how to spend their Saturday. This is not to say that they don’t take preaching seriously, they do. Where I pastor, preaching is central. There are high expectations on what is said in the pulpit on Sunday morning. My point is that preachers think more about the sermon than their listeners do, they have to, they are called to. But how can those hearing the sermon get the most out sermons week in and out? Here are a few thoughts.
But take notes intentionally. Don’t just write down things for the sake of writing them down. Write down things that you could tweet later or post to Facebook. Entire sermons are not what really shape you, its those little phrases and words that reach into your heart and bring renewal and hope and excitement and conviction and worship.
Don’t Take Notes
Some people don’t need to take notes. Taking notes for them is distracting and it feels too mechanical. Sometimes it is best just to sit and carefully listen and engage the sermon.
Don’t Deflect The Sermon
Too often we hear a point in a sermon and think, “I wish my brother could hear this.” While that might be true, are you certain that your heart doesn’t need to absorb the truth that was just spoken? Don’t assume that you are too mature to hear familiar truths over and over again.
Deflect The Sermon
Some sermons are more applicable to people who are not in the service. This is where you can use the sermons to encourage other people, witness to unbelievers, and invite your friends to the next worship gathering. Sermons should not stay in the church auditorium! They should be scattered by those who hear them. Think of ways you can live out what is said. Use phrases and references to comfort others or defend the truth of the Gospel. Give a copy of a sermon to friends for discussion. Once you leave the sermon, BE the sermon.
Bring Your Bible
We provide the text for the sermon on the screen as well as in the bulletin, but looking at your Bible while the sermon is going on is helpful for later reference, note taking, and cross references that are not on the screen or in the notes. In addition, you familiarize yourself with the Bible and the context of the passage.
Don’t Bring Your Bible
Sometimes we use our Bible as a distraction. We flip to other passages, read study notes, or look for errors in the sermon. Strangely enough, the Bible can distract you from hearing from God! If this is you, simply put the Bible down or stay in the same passage as the preacher. Don’t play theology police. Treat the sermon text as the most important text to you in that moment.
Look For Central Shaft
Most sermons will, and should, have a central theme or idea. Wether there is one point or fifty, there should be one idea driving the sermon. Look for it. Write it down. Hang onto it during the sermon. Look for ways to apply it.
Preachers want feedback wether they admit it or not. Though it can sting sometimes, it is always helpful for a preacher to know how he is being heard during the sermon. He needs to know what is helpful and what is not. If his intention is to grow and bless his people, he will need and want feedback from you.
Don’t Give Feedback
If you do not love your pastor and want the best for him and the church, do not give feedback. If you cannot speak the truth in love, wait until you can or don’t at all. Nothing is more demoralizing for a preacher than poring himself out to His people and afterward having an angry critic verbally dismiss or criticize what he said. Every preacher needs this to happen at times, but he cannot sustain it over the long haul of his ministry. But good, loving, honest, and gracious feedback honors Christ and the pastor God has chosen for the congregation.
Don’t Stop Worshipping
When the singing is over, worship is not. Sermons should be chances to worship Christ more. My hope in every sermon is that you adore Christ on the spot. I certainly want you to take what is said and apply it later, but what if you applied it during the sermon? Good preaching brings repentance and hope and faith and joy during the sermon. Bring this mindset to the sermon. Expect to know God better and worship Him more and trust Him more fully while the sermon is still going.
There Is Always Next Week
If the sermon doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t worry, there is always next week!