It would probably startle me to know the exact number of times I have watched various audiences as I preach. Responses vary from church to church in the sense that worship styles can vary greatly. I have learned to enjoy them all. I love the excitement of the churches in the Bahamas. I enjoy the enthusiasm of the churches in Haiti. I grew up attending some camp meeting services and always enjoyed the exuberance and liveliness of those crowds. I attended Pensacola Christian College and at first struggled with the more formal and quiet atmosphere of the Campus Church. However, the preaching of Pastor Jim Schettler transformed my life, and I learned to enjoy the quieter services as well. I think I have experienced just about every possible combination of service styles. Having said that, I have been thinking about this question: How should we listen to preaching? Here are some answers I have been considering.
- We should consider it extremely important. The early church received God’s Word with gladness in Acts 2:41; with fervent consideration and examination in Berea (Acts 17:10-11); and as the very truth of God in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. The Old Testament records in Nehemiah chapter 8 that the audience stood to listen and responded to what was taught – dramatically responded, I might add. I fear that many believers treat the preaching of God’s Word like we now treat entertainment. We tune into a program but simultaneously tune out to check social media or to browse the internet. The result is that we really aren’t doing either very well. Have you noticed that very few believers now carry a Bible, that very few take notes, and that even fewer respond? If my spiritual growth is relative to my learning God’s Word, then this is a very important matter.
- We should consider using a Bible instead of an app. I do not believe it is wrong to use an app, but I am very aware that our phones are often more distracting than they are useful. All of us are aware of how frequently a notification interrupts our train of thought and derails us from the task at hand. Our phones are never-satisfied and will always attempt to grab more and more of our attention. From the downward looking, blank stares of people sitting in airports and waiting rooms and in cars at traffic lights, we are a generation addicted to our devices. For me, it is very helpful when I turn off my phone and other devices while I am in church. I am more engaged and always learn more when I open my Bible and take notes with my pen. I recommend it to you.
- We should consider the value of “engaged” listening. Think of it like this. If someone is blankly staring at me while I am talking with them, something is wrong! A nod of agreement, a vocal response, or even a smile keeps me engaged and helps me to learn the Word of God as it is being taught.
- We should consider the value of responding to an invitation. I personally believe in invitations and I believe they are simply a time for prayer. Some churches have a place to kneel or one can kneel right where they are standing. We can raise our hands in prayer (Paul said that men should pray everywhere lifting up holy hands – 1 Tim 2:8). We can pray with someone else. We could simply stop and think about the message and listen to the voice of the Spirit as He guides us into all truth! Either way, we should respond!
What do you think? Where am I right? Where am I wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.
Your sincere friend,