The Art of Sermon Listening – Part 1

Over the next couple of blog posts, I would like to briefly address how to listen and what to listen for in a sermon. But first…why bring this issue up? Why analyze this issue? Three thoughts:

1) In my experience, most people seem to be more enamored with the preacher than the preaching. That is to say, most people, after getting up from a sermon, will be able to tell you (in detail) what the preacher was wearing or how he sounded, but not the content of his message. You’ll get feedback like, “That was an interesting suit/tie combo.” Or “He sounded a little nasally, don’t you think?” Or “Wow! He sure was energetic today, wasn’t he?” Notice all of these comments are geared towards the preacher and not the content of his preaching.

2) In my experience, most people seem to have their ears bent towards stories that illustrate the truth,  rather than their ears bent towards just the plain old truth. In other words, most people, after getting up from listening to a sermon, will be able to tell you (in detail) the funny (or dramatic) story the preacher gave, but not the content of his message. Nothing wrong with being drawn in by a good illustration, but I fear too many people today aren’t making the connection between illustrations and the truth.

3) In my experience, most people have simply never been trained on how to listen and what to listen for in a sermon. And believe me…there are plenty of classes and lectures on how to preach a sermon, but not too many classes on how to listen to a sermon. I believe that many people simply go to church, and listen to a sermon, because that’s what they’ve always done. Or they go to church, and listen to a sermon, not to be educated by the truth, but to be entertained by the truth.

So…before we tackle what to listen for in a sermon, let’s ask and answer the question, how do you listen to a sermon? That is to say, how should we approach the preaching of God’s Word? In fact, this Sunday’s service is fast approaching! How should you posture yourself to really get the most out of this Sunday’s sermon?

Well, in Nehemiah 8:1-18, we get a glimpse into how the people in Nehemiah’s day postured themselves to get the most out of the preaching of God’s Word. Yes, we were here last Sunday, but in last Sunday’s sermon, we looked at this text through the lenses of revival, in this blog post, I want to look at this text through the lenses of preaching. So…how should we listen to a sermon? ANSWER:

  • Expectantly (Neh. 8:1) – The people in Nehemiah’s day knew that God had spoken in the past and would speak to them that day through His Word. They were hungry to hear a word from God. We should be hungry as well, fully expecting that our great God will speak to us today through the preaching of His Word.
  • Attentively (Neh. 8:2-3) – This passage showcases just how eager the people were to hear the words of the Law of God. It was as if their ears were bent towards hearing every single syllable that God would utter to them. Are your ears attentive during the preaching of God’s Word? Are you fully expecting and eager to hear a word from God?
  • Deliberately (Neh. 8:4) – The people actually prepared for the hearing of God’s Word by making a platform of wood for Ezra to stand upon. They established an environment conducive to hearing a word from God. This environment was without distractions. What distractions keep you from hearing from God through the preaching of His Word? Sometimes all it takes is turning off your cell phone or sitting more towards the front of the sanctuary than the back so as not to be distracted by other people. Bottom line…we should be willing to do whatever it takes to hear a word from God.
  • Respectfully (Neh. 8:5) – The people in Nehemiah’s day showed great respect to the simple reading of God’s Word…they stood (out of respect) for six hours as the Word was being read! How do you showcase your respect for God’s Word? Do you treat it as you would any other book or do you really show a reverence and awe towards it? We should approach the preaching of God’s Word respectfully…reverently.
  • Worshipfully (Neh. 8:6-12) – The people, as they listened to the preaching of God’s Word, worshipped God by means of mourning over their sin (verse 9) and then rejoicing in the goodness and forgiveness of God (verses 10-12).  Here’s where the rubber meets the road…listening to a sermon is an act of worship! This is not a passive activity. You have the responsibility, as you listen to a sermon, to mourn over your sin (i.e. confess and repent) and then, in faith, move forward in joy because of the goodness and grace of God. Even if the preacher looks bad or sounds bad, if he is preaching from God’s Word, you have a responsibility to listen and to respond…not so much to him, but to God as he speaks to you through His preached Word.
  • Obediently (Neh. 8:13-18) – The people were not only eager to hear a word from God, but they desperately wanted to understand what God was saying to them to the point that they joyfully obeyed what He was saying to them. How should you listen to a sermon? Answer: To the point you hear, understand, and obey what God is saying to you! After all, the point of listening to a sermon is not merely to get more biblical information, but to experience heart transformation.

In next week’s post, we will examine the nuts and bolts of what to listen for in a sermon. As always, God bless you guys…I love you guys…and I hope to see you this Sunday as I come eager to preach the Word and as you come eager to hear the Word!

 

 

 

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