Sunday, January 04, 2009

Better Preaching Requires Better Listening

There will always be a place in our world for the person who can preach a better sermon. But there is also plenty of room for better listeners. God preaching, as with all forms of communication, is a two-way street.

It has long amazed me how four people sitting on the same pew on a Sunday morning can hear four distinctly different messages. It happens frequently.

After the service they come by to shake my hand and comment on the sermon. Each will say I spoke to his or her particular need. If I question them, I learn the needs to which they refer are entirely different.

When that happens, it means the listening was at least as good as the preaching. I attribute this phenomenon to the work of the Holy Spirit who anoints the ears and mind of each worshiper to receive God’s Word according to his or her deepest need of the moment.

The reactions of some people in church remind me of four men who climbed a mountain. The first didn’t enjoy a thing because of his aching feet. The second kept his eyes on the dark clouds and worried the whole trip about a storm which never came. The third looked down looked down at the lovely farms nestled in the valley below and was filled with envy because he didn’t have such a farm.

The fourth man, breathing deeply of the rare mountain air, lifted up his eyes with wonder and appreciation for the magnificent view. He forgot earthly cares for the moment as he allowed his spirit to soar with the summit. This man is the only one who had a true mountaintop experience.

What do you get out of church? It blesses many people, bores others, and may even cause some to become depressed or bitter.

If a person never gets anything good from the service it may mean he or she needs to change churches. But more than likely the problem is within the person. A Jewish proverb says that to a worm in horseradish the whole world is horseradish. The apostle Paul said, “to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”

Here’s how you can hear a great sermon this Lord’s Day. Don just drag your sour carcass into the church and plop it down on the back seat with an expression which says, “I’d rather not be here, and I dare you to bless me.” The best preacher in town will bore you to tears, or maybe make you angry.”

Instead, prepare yourself for worship with a pure heart. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise….”Psalm 100:4. Lift up holy hands before a loving Father and worship Him in spirit and in truth. Get your eyes off of the people around you and focus on Jesus.

The improvement in your pastor’s sermons will amaze you.

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