Jun 162016 5 Responses

How to Listen to Me (or anyone) Preach

A few weeks ago I did something I rarely do–I sat with the congregation and listened to a sermon. It doesn’t happen often. In most years, I speak 47-50 weeks per year. The few Sundays I don’t preach, I’m normally traveling. But on this particular Sunday I was looking at the stage instead of standing on it.

As I listened, I wrote down things that struck me. Many of those things were paraphrases of the preacher. Others were thoughts I had of my own. Nearly everything was related to the sermon, but a few of my notes were other things which just popped into my mind. By writing them down, I was able to return my attention to the sermon.

Near the end of the sermon, I glanced toward the audience. Few people were actively engaged. This wasn’t the fault of the preacher; it was the fault of the audience. While preachers have a job to gain and keep the attention of the audience, a congregation has an equal responsibility to be involved in the sermon. Too many church attenders guaranteed the sermon will have no lasting impact on their lives, because they do not listen to a sermon properly. They passively allow the words to go in one ear and out the other leaving them barely able to remember one line from the sermon the next day.

There is a better process.

Book of John

On July 10, we are going to kick off an in depth study of the Book of John on Sunday mornings. John’s gospel has long been a formative work within the lives of Christians. Whether someone is a long-time believer or if someone is still trying to figure out who Jesus is, John’s gospel can have a lasting impact.

In the book, God reveals himself to us. John makes the case that Jesus is the Son of God and gives a clear defense of why we should worship God in every aspect of our lives.

Consider some of the famous verse from John:

3.30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

5.24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”

10.10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

14.6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

21.22 “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”

We live in interesting times. Debate is rabid; leadership is lacking; and confusion reigns. Many are turning to politics or power in hopes of finding meaning in this world. Yet neither will give the answers which truly matter.

In these times, we need to seriously consider who Jesus said he was and determine if we believe him or not. Over the next year, we will study the Book of John in such a way that people will have the opportunity to understand Jesus at a level in which they never have.

The Challenge

As we begin this study, I want to challenge you to do four things:

One Bible. I love the Bible on my phone. I use it all the time. But it’s a supplement to the physical copy of God’s Word. Sermons are better heard with an actual Bible in the listener’s hands. Just the physical appearance helps tell the story–a Bible opened to the Psalms shows a different place in God’s redemption story than a Bible opened to Revelation. By listening with the same Bible each week, verses can be underlined and passages remembered. As you are listening, you can flip back to a previous text and quickly recall what was discussed. Listening with the same Bible week after week will help you understand a specific sermon while giving you a broader understanding of the whole book. Bring your Bible.

One Pen. The most common mistake I see from people listening to sermons is that they do so without a pen in hand. Sermons are not to be heard passively. They require active listening. By engaging the sermon through active listening, much more will be gained. Write down key phrases, questions, and ideas. It will create more understanding from the sermon, aid discussion with a small group, and give a living history of your spiritual journey. Take notes. 

One Notebook. Not only should notes be taken, they should be kept. Taking notes on a temporary piece of paper is good, but it’s better to take them in a place where they can be referenced. I can still look back to sermon notes taken in college and remember aspects of the sermon as well as getting insight for today. Keep and review your notes. 

One Year. The danger of this process is someone will try it for a week or two and then give up. In that time, change may or may not take place. However, if you will commit to this process for 52 weeks, you will not regret it. In our day, no one is going to be in corporate worship every week, but because of technology every sermon can be easily accessed whenever a person desires. If you will commit to engaging in 52 sermons in a year through the study of a single book of the Bible, taking notes, and occasionally reviewing those notes, you will be amazed at how much you will feel God speaking to you and your current circumstances. Commit for one year.

Coming in July

I understand that not everyone wants to seriously think about God or to study the Bible. But many do. Not only do I want you to commit to being involved in this study–both in person and online–for the next year, I want to challenge you to invite others to join you. If they are local, invite them to church with you. If they live in other locations, invite them to watch online and to discuss the book with you.

Imagine what might be different one year from today if you truly engage in this study.

  • What will you know about God which you currently do not?
  • How much more of the Bible will you understand then than you do now?
  • What circumstances will happen between now and then and God will use this study to teach you in the midst of those moments?
  • What could you create–in a notebook–over the next year which you will glean from for years to come and even pass on to your children or grandchildren?

Join us on July 10 in Fort Smith, Van Buren, Greenwood, or online.

5 Responses to How to Listen to Me (or anyone) Preach
  1. Hyla Reply

    I give an emphatic “YES!” to the note keeping idea in this post! I have been doing this for just over a year now and cannot tell you the HUGE difference this has made to my spiritual growth and health!

    About a year ago I made a commitment to become more intentional about about my spiritual growth, and began scribbling notes all over my Sunday bulletins to help me remember things. My husband noticed this and presented me with one of the best presents he has ever given me — a plain 6.5 x 9.5 inch spiral bound notebook so I could keep all my notes together in one place and have more room to write them. I record detailed notes on Sunday sermons and the scripture verses the preacher quotes from, as well as Sunday school and mid-week Bible study lessons.

    I find that when I am writing in my notebook my mind is keenly alert, engaged, and focused on what is being said, so that I can more easily absorb and understand what I am hearing without being distracted. I often look back over the notes, and look up the Bible verses again (and often write them out into my notebook as well), and this gives me the opportunity to reflect deeply about the message and gain insights and make connections that were not possible before. My auditory memory was just not that great. This process has ignited within me a keen desire to keep learning more. I had not realized how SPIRITUALLY DEHYDRATED I had let myself become over the last several years. It is so easy to do in the midst of demands of work, home, family, etc. But the simple act of keeping this notebook — writing down things that are truly important — has “reawakened” me and refilled my spiritual reservoir. And also filled my notebook — it’s time to go get a new one!

    Question: I am interested in participating in the study of John. Will you be providing information on how those not local can access and watch your sermons? Many thanks! Hyla

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Hyla,
      Thank you for your response and encouragement. We will make sermons available, probably on my YouTube page. I’m also considering publishing each sermon manuscript as a blog so people can have the content.
      kt

  2. Charlene Leamons Reply

    I am so looking forward to this series on Sundays and usually bring my bible to church. I like writing my notes on my bulletin and I keep all of them to go back to to study and reflect. I will bring my bible to church for this series so I can scribble away during the sermon in my bible and I will certainly enjoy your blogs you will be posting on this series.

  3. […] 1. Weekly submit to Biblical preaching. It’s a foolish method of communication, but it’s... kevinathompson.com/hearing-quiet-god-loud-world

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