I recently overheard someone complaining that they aren’t getting anything out of the morning worship service. The person explained that she tried to listen but kept daydreaming. She was bored.
This got me to thinking about the position our pastors are in. They work hard all week trying to prepare the best sermon possible. They pray for guidance and insight. Then they present what they believe is a Word from the Lord to a congregation that barely looks awake.
People are used to entertainment and yet that is not what the pastor is there for. I want my pastor to tell me what God has been teaching him. I want my toes tramped on. I want to be engaged. I want to think.
I think the best sermon is only as good as the audience that is listening. The pastor is responsible to be prepared and to present his message well. BUT the audience has a responsibility to listen well.
Do you do anything to prepare to hear the message on Sunday morning?
Here are some ideas to consider:
Be prepared - Pray for yourself. Pray that the Spirit would prepare your heart to receive the Word. Pray for your pastor. Pray that the Spirit would empower him to boldly preach the Word and to do so with clarity and conviction.
Another part of being prepared is getting enough sleep the night before. You can’t listen if you are falling asleep. I am sure it is discouraging for a pastor to be preaching his heart out and to look out and see people sleeping. Respect your pastor enough to be alert and listening to what he is preaching.
That brings me right into my next point. Be an active listener. It is through the renewing of your mind that God transforms your life. (Romans 12:2) So when you listen to a sermon, your mind needs to be fully engaged. Often times this requires some self-discipline. It is easy to let your mind wander. However, listening to the sermon is part of the worship that we are offering to God.
Listen expecting God to speak to you. Some people find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand. This is an excellent way to help stay focused and it is a valuable aid to memory. The physical act of writing something down helps to plant the information in our minds.
Sometimes people think that they know the Bible well and they don’t need to look at the passage being preached. This is not accurate. Even if you have the passage memorized, there are always new things to learn by seeing the text on the page. Therefore, we benefit the most by having our Bibles open during the sermon.
Another benefit is that we can make sure what the pastor is saying is in line with Scripture. Look at what Acts 17:11 says about the Bereans. “for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Paul was not insulted when they scrutinized his teachings. Just the opposite was true. Paul commended them for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.
Really listening to a sermon takes more than your mind. It also takes a commitment of your heart. Listen with a heart that is receptive to the leading of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to calm our fears, convict of sin, disturb our conscience, proclaim God’s grace, and encourage us in faith. Listening to a sermon should never just be a mental exercise. We also need to listen with our hearts and allow His Word to influence every aspect of our lives.
Receiving the Word of God requires humility. Listen carefully. Listen critically. But do all of this humbly. You are not a speech teacher. You are not a college professor. (Even if you are, the pastor is not your student.) You are a beggar in need of nourishment. Don’t resist the Spirit’s leading. Set aside your pride and submit to God. Be a humble listener.
Lastly, be ready to put into practice what God is teaching you. Paul tells the Philippians in chapter 4, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” God is looking for a response from us when the Spirit speaks to us. James tells us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” If we don’t apply what we are learning, then we won’t grow in our relationship with God.
Preaching the Word is a gift from God. Our churches need pastors who are whole-heartedly committed to preaching what God lays on their hearts. Never take your pastor or his commitment to the Lord for granted. He needs your support and your prayers.
Take a fresh look at the service this week. Think about how you listen. Honor God and your pastor by doing your part. Listen …. really listen. Be prepared, be alert, be engaged, have your Bible open, be expectant, be humble, and then act on what you hear.