How to Listen

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I don’t know about you, but sitting at home, on the same couch where I normally fall asleep on while watching TV, watching the Sunday sermons is tough. As I struggled with my feelings towards lockdown and why we can’t be with one another, I remembered a little book I got a few years ago when we became members of another church.

It is a little book that helps you listen to a sermon well. Here are some suggestions that I learned and can help with the couch problem.

First, expect God to speak, not the preacher. The main way God leads his bride is through the preaching of his word. God uses the preacher to speak on his behalf. For a preacher, this is a scary task: to speak on behalf of God. But it should be just as scary for those who listen. We are hearing God speak to us. That thought made me sit up with the right heart attitude (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Look at the text that’ll be preached that Sunday the week leading up to it.

Second, admit that God knows better than you do. Listen with ears to hear so that you can apply what was said to your life and change to look more like Jesus. We should come humbly to the preached word, knowing we’re all a mess and we need Jesus.

Third, know Scripture and check that the preacher is saying what the text is saying. We don’t have to have a degree in theology to know what the Bible is saying. Listen and ask questions of the verses being preached. It’ll help you concentrate. Questions like: How did he get there? What does this mean in my life? Why did he break the passage in these sections? Why did the writer write this? If you have any unanswered questions, contact the preacher and pick his brain.

Fourth, go and listen to the sermon at the building. Even though we can’t all gather, we can come and register to be part of the fifty. It is always better to hear it in person. We can then, without delay, apply right after the sermon.

Fifth, be there week by week. Pitch up at a Grace Group and discuss what was preached. To do this, you will need to make notes during the sermon, which will help you (and me) not to feel like you’re watching your favourite series on the couch. If you have a brain like mine, making notes helps to remember, but it also helps you to go back to the previous weeks notes to refresh your memory on what was preached the week before. Check out the flow of the passage.

Sixth, don’t just listen but do what was preached (James 1:22). When you listen and ask questions, apply what you’ve learned to your life. Pray the passage and what you’ve learnt throughout the week. Write down a list of things you can work on this week and live it out. To do this you will have to listen.

I trust the above suggestions will prove helpful, but it does raise another issue: What if the sermon is really bad? Well, here are some thoughts.

First, if it’s a dull sermon, or so technical that it makes you drowsy, pray for God to help you get something profitable out of it. Keep your ear out to take one thing to heart. Pray also for the preacher. Seeing that you’re on your couch, perhaps stand up and move for a short stint. (Caffeine might help.) But guard your heart not to criticise.

Second, perhaps take the preacher for coffee and give him some constructive feedback on the sermon. Tell him what was good and where you lost him. We are all in this together to learn. The listeners are contributing to a sermon and to the preacher.

Third, and finally, do not be guilty of wanting preachers to say what and how we want it said (2 Timothy 4:3–4). Be thankful for faithful preaching and be glad that we’re not in difficult times (2 Timothy 3:1).

Learning to listen with you,

Tommie