Saturday, January 9, 2010

Don’t Just Listen to the Sermon

Pathfinder Bible Achievement 2008

Image by Vicki's Pics via Flickr

Engaging the Message

My guess is that few people other than the pastor are thinking much about tomorrow’s sermon. In fact most people will probably not begin to think about the sermon until the preacher speaks his first words.

It is the pastor’s responsibility to engage his hearers, but it is also the hearer’s responsibility to engage what he hears. To help my congregation to become more engaged hearers I put together a list of ten suggestions which I called ‘How to Get the Most out of the Message.’

Not everyone will adopt all ten suggestions into their Sunday routine. But making an effort in one or two of these areas to become more engaged before, during, and after the message will go a long way.

I am going to present this list in a series of three posts. Use what you find helpful and be sure to comment with your own practices.

1. Bring your Bible to church.

That may sound like an obvious suggestion. Many people already bring their Bible with them to church. Others will use the pew Bible or will read the text printed in the bulletin or projected on the screen. The reason that we need to bring a Bible with us is so that we are able to see with our own eyes what we are hearing with our ears.

We are not only learning what the Bible says, but we are also being taught how we are to use the Bibles we have. Since the sermons we hear are (hopefully) based on what the text of the Bible says, we need to be able to verify what we hear with what is printed on the page.

2. Take notes during the sermon.

Taking notes is more than just filling in the blanks. In many churches what is provided in the bulletin is merely an outline. On some occasions there may even be no outline provided at all. What we need to be writing down is what we need to be taking home with us from what we’ve heard.

It’s not about getting down the right answer; it’s about what God is saying to me through this text of Scripture. For some that may be a single word, a phrase, a specific verse, an illustration, or some specific recommendation for application. What you write down is what you need to take home.

3. Get a copy of the sermon when you are gone.

We all get sick, go on vacation, get called away for work, or occasionally just can’t be in church on a particular Sunday. When this happens take advantage of the resources available so that you can stay on track with what is happening. This is especially important when the sermon series takes listeners through a whole book of the Bible. Often times what we hear on any given Sunday will build off of what has come before.

Hopefully your church offers ways to hear the sermon when you are gone. Some churches provide the opportunity for listening online or downloading the message from the website. For those who do not have access to the internet, messages may also be available on CD. If these resources are not available a written transcript or copy of the pastor’s notes may be upon request. The point is be proactive.

Don’t Delay, Start Today!

Depending on when you read this post there may still be time to adopt some these practices as your own for this Sunday’s worship. In my next post I will offer the three more suggestions for getting the most out of the message. Until then don’t just listen to the sermon, engage it!

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  1. Does faith have to come by hearing? I remember very few of the sermons I've *heard* over the last 35+ years I've been a Christian, even when I used to take notes in order to enhance my interaction and learning with the sermon.

    I've learned more by reading (and once told a pastor I wished I could just read the text of his sermons instead of sitting there listening to him deliver it) - and even more by engaging in thoughtful dialogue formally in a small group or informally, over coffee with a friend. Interaction builds accountability, conviction and worship in my life. It might be true in the lives of at least some of your congregations as well.

    Your desire to encourage people to engage instead of consume (and forget) is wise and definitely pastoral.

  2. Michelle - Learning style plays a major role here as well. Some people don't need to take notes or take part in some further exercise to be engaged. However our minds can be so cluttered by daily life that if I've not done something intentional to apply what I've heard I may just as easily have forgotten the message by the time I get to my car in the church parking lot.

    Stay tuned for parts two and three where accountability and interaction will be discussed.

    Thanks for your comments.


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