It is an incredibly interesting point of view when I look out across the various faces each Sunday morning. All of the caricatures are in place. There is Mr. Head Tilt who is communicating with that squinty eye pushed forward and slight head tilt that says he is closely examining and evaluating every single word (usually a male). There is Mr. or Mrs. Head Nod who is vivaciously spurring me on through their aggressive nodding with each provided point of observation or application.
Mr. Rubber Neck is a small minority but usually represented. He, and it usually is a he, has a singular focus for the morning and that focus is for no one to see that he is taking 10-20 second naps throughout the sermon. In his effort to conceal himself he overcompensates his course correction by violently popping his head back up from his momentary slumber. Madam Transcription is fascinating to see as she is frantically transcribing every word, and hardly every looking up, into her notebook where she religiously keeps her lifetime of sermon notes. Last and my personal favorite is The Testifier. This is individual who lets me know I am preaching truth and encourages me to continue through their vocal affirmations and encouragements which seem to spring out of their faces as an involuntary burst of excitement. Every preacher needs his Testifiers!
We all listen and engage with a sermon in different ways. I’d like to suggest 6 ways that might help you engage more deeply.
Prepare: I work hard at Crossings Community to make sure our people know the biblical passage we will be looking at by Friday. Often our church body knows the passage long before that based on the series we are working through. Whether a quick read through or an in-depth study, exposure to that passage before Sunday morning will have a significant impact on your active listening.
Pray: It sounds so obvious but you might be surprised how many people approach the proclamation of the Word of God amidst the Bride of Christ (His gathered local church) without praying. Pray a prayer of confession around any unconfessed sin in your life. Pray a prayer of supplication asking God to move in your heart through His Spirit and His Word. Pray for me or your preaching pastor as we engage in the battle of preaching the Word of God.
Personalize: We often talk about how individual our western culture is in comparison to all others yet this is a spot I want to encourage you to be a more individualistic. So many times, I have spoken to people after a sermon and heard how that sermon needs to heard by someone else. Too often we listen with imaginary mirrors trying to reflect the sermonic beams of conviction and application to everyone but ourselves.
Prioritize: As I listen to the Spirit and work through sermon preparation I try to push everything in one direction. In other words, instead of focusing on the 25 amazing points that we could rightly find in every paragraph of the Bible I labor to funnel my points in one singular direction. We as people can either be overwhelmed with possible applications and then lost amidst the sea of possibilities or sick of hearing a single idea but never forget it. Further, one of the most supernatural things about preaching the Word of God is hearing from listeners what their singular application was and realizing that was not your intention at all. Whether stated by the pastor or another thought that the Holy Spirit places in your mind and heart while listening, prioritize one idea you can ponder, pray through, journal, and apply as you depart.
Participate: To actively listen you must participate. There are many ways to participate in a Sermon. Some people are note-takers and that is how they actively participate. You can take detailed notes or just jot down situations and/or relationships in your life where you are feeling specific application. You can participate by seeking a prayer leader, small group leader, or your spouse to pray with around the issues and applications from the sermon.
Practice: Put it into practice! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17) The proclaimed Word of God is not merely more information to add to your filing cabinet of knowledge. The proclaimed Word of God is His designed and desired method of transformation amidst His gathered people. Live differently every Monday because of the proclaimed Word of God you receive every Sunday.
We all have different wirings and personalities but all us should actively engage in the preached Word of God. What are some ways that you could more deeply engage in the preached Word of God?