Friday, February 26, 2010

How should you listen to a sermon? (part two)

To follow up on yesterday's post I am going to lay out some wise counsel that Thabiti Anyabwile offers in his little book What is a Healthy Church Member? regarding "expositional listening". Then I'll offer my own tips on how to listen to a sermon. Anyabwile presents five benefits to expositional listening (pgs. 20-22). I won't go into detail to explain them so you will have to get his book but here are those benefits: 1) Listening in this way benefits us by cultivating a hunger for God's Word; 2) It helps us to focus on God's will and to follow Him; 3) It protects the gospel and our lives from corruption; 4) It encourages faithful pastors (amen!); and 5) It benefits the gathered congregation. Anyabwile then provides six ways to "cultivate the habit of expositional listening" (pgs. 22-25):
  1. Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time.
  2. Invest in a good set of commentaries (my words- for follow-up study).
  3. Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church.
  4. Listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week.
  5. Develop the habit of addressing any questions about the text itself.
  6. Cultivate humility.

I "amen" what Thabiti has shared in his book, but let me add to or put into my own words some tips to more efficiently and effectively listen and process what you hear on Sunday mornings.

  1. Get the sermon text ahead of time and read through it during the week. I provide a "worship card" which includes the sermon text, title, and a related Old Testament reading, but you could probably call or email your pastor and get that info (at least by Friday). He'd probably be delighted you showed interest which would be an encouragement as he goes into the pulpit.
  2. Bring your Bible and follow along... highlight, underline, and TAKE NOTES.
  3. In your notes try to write down the main idea or main point of the passage/ sermon. If the pastor doesn't clearly state it or you miss it, write down what you deduce it is and check with him to make sure you got it right. Also note sub-points that build off or support the main point... these will help with future study and with application.
  4. Write out questions. In the bulletin I supply "table talk questions" which are simple questions that will help review the message and the passage. My hope is that families or friends will discuss them around the lunch table or in the car on the way home. Try writing out your own questions as the sermon unfolds. Perhaps they will be answered in the sermon or they will be good discussion points later or you can quiz your pastor (I'd be delighted to field questions... just give me some time to breathe after the sermon).
  5. Go back through the passage of Scripture on your own no later than Monday to make sure it sinks in. Make some bullet points in your mind (helps to write them out) of ways you can apply the Scripture that week.

Rarely in school did I ever master content without listening, taking notes, studying, and being tested. So why do we think we can check our brains at the door, put forth little mental effort, and never revist the content and still be equipped? Thankfully the Holy Spirit has been given to "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13), but let's make every effort to "present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

1 comment:

AJ said...

If you can't say "Amen", say "Ouch". Well said Brother. If all of the spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading, memorizing, and studying the word, fasting, etc.) are difficult and in opposition to our flesh, why should we think that the corporate worship service should be easy. God, help us to buffet our flesh, and pour out our energies in yielding our minds to what the Spirit would teach us through the faithful exposition of His Word.