How To Listen to a Sermon

By Dan Vis
February 05, 2017

Note: Through the month of February, we plan to call attention to the importance of the Bible, and give you a few practical suggestions for building it into our lives. This first article talks about the importance of how we listen to sermons. It comes from lesson #2 in our Mighty in the Word course available in our Study Guides area. Enjoy!

God has gifted men and women to preach and teach the Word of God effectively, and He warns believers to not neglect this gift. Speakers are encouraged to preach the word at every opportunity (II Timothy 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.). And believers are urged to not forsake assembling together—because we need that exhortation (Hebrews 10:24-2524 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.). It is important.

And we have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of Bible instruction. Sermons are preached in every church. Teachers discuss the lesson study each week. Midweek prayer meetings usually include another message. We attend seminars and workshops. You can get sermons on TV, the radio, over the internet, and on CD's, and other media. You can even read them in a magazine or book! Messages are everywhere. An active Christian can listen to scores of them over the course of a year.

How to Listen
Unfortunately, most of these sermons go in one ear and out the other. Ask a person what was preached just two or three weeks prior they will usually draw a blank. It may have strengthened them for a day or two—but there was little lasting benefit. As James put it, we are hearers of the word only, deceiving our own selves. (See James 1:22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.). Below are three suggestions to help you become a better listener:

1. Pay Attention
Most people find taking notes to be a great way to stay focused on the message you are listening to. It helps keep our thoughts from wandering. You can follow the structure of the speaker's message more clearly. Or jot down references and quotes you want to refer to later. You can also record impressions from the Holy Spirit. Good students take notes in class, because what they are listening to is important. How much more God's Word?

2. Reflect After
Try to find a few minutes later that same day (if possible) to reflect on the sermon. Check the context of any interesting verses. Highlight key points or statements. Explore any questions that were raised during the message. Summarize the key principles in the passage. What was the speaker's call to action? Did you sense God speaking to you at any point? Even a brief second pass will help you fix the message in your memory, and glean gems in the message you might otherwise miss.

3. Take Action
A message won't do any good unless it leads to change in your life. As you look over your notes, ask God to show you one thing you personally can take from the message. Come up with a specific project or change you can make. Write out a concrete plan of action. Platitudes and good intentions are not enough. Refuse to let the message go until you have put something from it into your weekly planner.

How to Remember
Get a small file cabinet and start storing messages that were valuable to you. Create folders for different topics. Include handouts and worksheets. You do not have to save every message—but most have something worth hanging on to. You can also include magazine articles or study guides on various topics. Write up short summaries of books you read and add them. File away notes from Bible topics you have researched as well. You will soon have lots of great resources in your files.

Someone asks you a question? Go to your files and get the answer. Studying out some topic? See what you have in your files. Need to do a devotional? Or workshop? Pull out a folder and save yourself some preparation. Working on some project? Look through your files for ideas. Turn those scores of sermons you hear each year from one-time blessings into messages that benefit you time and time again. Your files will soon become invaluable, and only get better year after year.

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