From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Pastor’s Preaching

In my experience there’s been two ways to listen to a sermon or talk:

  • the passive way, impressed on us by TV I think, or by long boring sermons. The listener, like the TV watcher, basically sits there and lets the speaker/tube do the work of entertaining, titillating, motivating. If that doesn’t happen pretty soon (like in the first 90 seconds) the TV watcher changes channels; the sermon listener mentally goes to sleep. In part the passive way is a result of preaching that intends not to teach but to create a feeling or to emotionally move.
  • the active way, which reflects the process of reading, I think. (I note the decline of both reading and active listening in this electronic age.) The listener, like the reader, engages with the message, mentally following the argument, assenting, wondering, disagreeing. The listener may agree or disagree with what’s been said, but he does not wake up because he’s not been asleep. He’s been “in the ring”, instead of “in the seats” with the speaker. The active way is a result of preaching that intends not to create a feeling or emotionally move, but to teach.

Now having said all that, how is a listener who is used to the passive way become more active in listening to sermons? What sorts of things can the listener in the pew do in order to receive some benefit from nearly any sermon? Here‘s a helpful article by Nancy Leigh DeMoss who provides several practical suggestions for before, during, and after the service. I would say “yea and amen” to all these – my only caveat would be don’t take this list thinking you have to do ALL these things. Instead, practice a few and as it becomes more natural for you, add a few more.



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