“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV)
In yesterday’s post I discussed the first three of ten suggestions on how to get the most out of the pastor’s sermons. Today we explore four more ways that you as the listener can better engage the message that you hear.
Image by Gare and Kitty via Flickr
Doing these things will not make the transition from hearing to application automatic. However, the way we listen to sermons can sometimes prove the old adage to be true: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Read the passage before coming to church.
Does your pastor publish a preaching schedule? Many times the following week’s sermon passage will be noted in the worship bulletin, in a monthly newsletter, or on the church calendar.
Why not take advantage of this by simply reading through the passage once or twice prior to coming to worship? You would be surprised how much this can enrich the whole worship service when you have had a chance to preview what’s in store for that morning.
If this information is not currently available to you, be sure to encourage your pastor to publish his preaching texts ahead of time. You and your congregation will be blessed for having it.
Read the passage in a different translation.
Most of us have been reading from the same Bible translation (if not from the same copy of the Bible) for many years. We tend to stick to what we are used to. However, the Lord has blessed English speakers with some great versions of the Bible that can enrich our study of his Word.
In many evangelical churches the sermons are typically based out of the New International Version (NIV). Personally, I also keep a copy of the English Standard Version (ESV) on my nightstand, and I often read other versions in my personal Bible study such as the New Living Translation (NLT), the New American Standard (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard (HCSB). Some translations are better than others, but simply reading a passage from another version can open your eyes to what is being said in the text that you might otherwise have missed.
Make a list of questions.
As you read your Bible and listen to the messages, keep a list of questions that arise in your mind. If you are reading the passage before the sermon, write down any questions you have that you hope to have answered as a result of hearing the message. If you don’t get those questions answered, seek out the Pastor or someone who can clear up anything you might be wondering about.
As you listen to the message preached, there may also be new questions that are raised in your mind. Be sure to write those questions down and seek the answers. You can do this either through your own study of the Bible or by asking someone else for insight. Whatever you do, don’t settle for leaving your questions unanswered.
Join a group discussion.
A great place for seeking answers is in a group setting. More than likely your question is shared by someone else who might just be a little too afraid to ask. While sermons tend to be more one directional, groups allow dialog and learning from one another.
If discussion groups aren’t available through your church, see if you can’t invent your own. All you need is at least one other person that will think out loud with you about what you are hearing and reading from God’s Word.
Tomorrow I will conclude this three-part series of posts on getting the most out of the messages. Until then work at digging deep into God’s Word. You won’t be disappointed by what you find there.