I posted something a couple of weeks ago called, “What I Want from a Sermon.” My aim was to get at the heart of what we should want from a sermon. This is difficult because some (it would seem) don’t even know why there should be a sermon let alone the what of one. From a personal perspective, I shared a few things (though not exhaustive) about what I’m looking for because it would seem that this is what Scripture wants to achieve with the proclamation of God’s Word. Be sure to go back and read that post if you haven’t, because that post will serve as a spring-board into these next couple of posts.
Having established the what part (again, I’m assuming the why is clear: preaching is God’s means to display His worth, announce His news, save His sheep, and edify His people), I want to talk about the how of listening to a sermon. (I once quipped with my congregation that I was going to doing a sermon on how to listen to a sermon, but to this very day I have yet to do so. Maybe another time. For now, this will have to suffice!)
For part 1 here, I will start with this:
Listening to a sermon begins on the drive home Sunday afternoon and continues through the week.
I know what you’re thinking. Listening to a sermon begins after the sermon is already over? Yes. Well, sort of. Here’s what I mean.
After leaving the Sunday gathering, you are heading home (or to lunch as it were), and your friend/spouse/child wants to talk to you about the morning. Instead of asking, “How was church?” (A man-centered, self-focused, consumeristic question), ask instead, “What do we do with the Word that was taught today?”* (e.g., James 1:22). How do we make disciples of all nations with this? How do I repent from my breaking of God’s Law, and believe the truth of the Gospel? How do I take this and apply it so as to love God more and love my neighbor as myself?
In doing this, you are preparing your heart for the word to take root. And truthfully that ought to be the case from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening. When we go to work Monday through Friday with soccer, dance and little league during the week, as well as a missional community gathering, we are starting the process all over again by listening to the Spirit through the Word. Truth be told, discipleship cannot happen in a 30-60 minute sermon. Important as the sermon is (I can’t stress this enough!), discipleship encompasses all of life as we live as a family of missionary servants with the power of the Gospel and the ministry of the Spirit.
So what can you do before the sermon? Read and meditate on God’s Word each day, perhaps even the passage/book being studied. Pray fervently each day; pray for your pastor(s), pray that the Spirit would make your heart believe, and pray for others. Go to bed on time Saturday night(!), being diligent to keep your body rested (Why would you expect to have clarity of thought and be fully awake to listen to a sermon when you didn’t go to bed until 1am Sunday morning?).
A lot of this is preparation for the head, heart and hands. Cultivating the soil takes effort (Mark 4:1-20)–what are you doing this week to begin listening to the sermon?
*I’m assuming that you attend a church that is faithful to expository preaching, has a strong elder-led government with qualified leaders, practices the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, holds to the authority of Scripture in all of life, and leaves the smoke and mirrors to David Copperfield.