The reason I don’t listen to sermons is because I’m usually the one preaching. But during my vacation time this summer I sat in some other churches and listened to someone else preach. It is a different perspective, sitting in the congregation instead of standing behind the pulpit. Here are some lessons learned.
1. Part of a good sermon depends on the speaker. On vacation, I heard some fine preachers deliver some fine messages. When they spoke with passion and grabbed me through stories or humor, I tended to listen better. Boring messages are, I have to admit, harder to follow. Please, no “amens” from the FBC O’Fallon, IL crowd! 🙂 And really, boring people with the greatest message ever? Unacceptable.
2. Part of a good sermon depends on the listener. If I am eager to learn, eager to worship and listening carefully for the Lords’ Word for my life, It makes a difference. Analyzing the preacher’s ability- or lack thereof- isn’t that helpful. Allowing my mind to wander limits the impact of the word. Focus and a tender heart makes a difference regardless of the speaker. If I am prayed up and eager to listen, I tend to get more from the message.
3. Part of a good sermon has nothing to do with the sermon. If I was drawn into worship through music and prayer I found my heart better prepared to listen to the sermon. If I got some decent rest the night before, I found the message easier to follow. If the congregation was friendly and inviting to me before the service even began, I was apt to anticipate the message with greater enthusiasm. If my relationship with God and my family and others was right, I found I was better at listening to the message that day.
4. Part of a good sermon depends on the Holy Spirit. There were times when I felt the Holy Spirit was applying the message to me in a way the preacher might not have been able to anticipate. God can use the words of the message to draw us in ways that are only indirectly related to the message itself. Sometimes the message was more of a “God thing” than the result of the preacher.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to preach. But I am so very thankful for those who listen. I’ll try to do my best when I preach. I will study and pray and practice. But I know that it is about more than me and my abilities.
I pray- for those of you going to a church service this weekend- that you will be a good listener; that you will have a “God moment”. I pray your preacher does a good job. But, I pray that you do your part.
Listen well this weekend.