Preachers spend thousands of hours of their lives learning sermon theory, preparing sermons, writing and reading books on sermons, and preaching sermons. And, to the degree that a sermon delivers God’s Word, spiritual fruit is borne!
But what about the listener? Have you ever read a book or taken a course on how to listen to a sermon? Probably not, even though you may listen to over 52 sermons a year! Here are 7 steps to listen-and benefit-from a sermon:
- Arrive early: a well-designed worship service will help point you to God and prepare your mind and heart to hear his Word. Arriving late is not only a distraction to others, but robs you of the time you need to steady your thoughts on God, confess sin, lift his Name high, and receive his Word.
- Pray: ask for God to manifest his presence in your life through the Word, and help you hear and obey.
- Take short notes: jotting down key points helps us to see what we’ve heard, and review it later. While extensive note-taking may distract you from listening, bringing a notebook with your Bible reinforces the message, gives you material to return to later in your week, and permits you to further study any ambiguities that were not clear during the sermon.
- Monitor your heart: We tend to build walls that protect us from hearing the hard truths. Walls include: (1) listening to content but not considering application, (2) hoping someone else hears it but not assessing our own lives, (3) justifying any personal behaviours the Bible is exposing in us, and (4) downplaying the warnings of Scripture. Be aware of these hindrances and soften your heart.
- Let your mind wander for a purpose: When we hear God’s Word preached, the goal is not to memorize or remember every word the preacher utters. The goal is transformation! As such, there is nothing wrong with letting your mind wander away from the words preached to consider applications for your own life, or to be convicted by God. But don’t let your mind wander off into other matters (i.e. did I plug the crockpot in?, I wonder why the preacher’s clothes are wrinkled?, etc.), but consider the message being delivered as it is being preached.
- Enjoy, but don’t over-enjoy: Many sermons will contain humorous comments, illustrations, interesting vocabulary, or verbal glitches. They might even make you laugh! Enjoy the moment, but train your mind to stay on course. Leaning over to rehearse joke with a friend, snickering on-and-on, or wondering if you are as funny will distract from hearing what God has said.
- Take Something home: No matter what the subject is, if God’s Word is preached, there is always something beneficial for us. It might be a reminder of a promise, a new thought about God’s character, a convicting warning, a measurable action step, the need to reconcile with someone, a habit to break, etc.
Now, teach and model these steps to others!