After a Church meeting the logical and profitable thing to talk about is the sermon. Usually we talk about other things, instead. Perhaps this is because our listening is not very good. If a preacher knows his sermon will be talked about, he will probably make a better sermon - something worth talking about. A congregation that meets regularly together can expect to get the quality of sermon it encourages in the preachers by the way it listens. Poor or sloppy listening invites poor or sloppy preaching.
How might our listening be less than it should be and how can we improve it?
In listening to a sermon, people look for a blessing for themselves. They listen for something that somehow connects with their life or touches them and then sometimes stop listening. We do not listen in terms of God's whole Word and Council. We tend not to listen to find out what the truth is and how it fits and works together. We listen in terms of ourselves. We are at the center.
God should be the center of our listening, rather than ourselves.
Many people listen to hear familiar things they have heard before. Then they encourage the preacher in saying only the familiar things rather than challenging them and helping them to grow in understanding.
Preachers preach to the level of the listening. We need to honor God's Word and the teacher by listening critically and with discernment.
Usually there are things in a sermon that are not understood. Sometimes these things are confused in the preacher's mind and delivery. Sometimes the listeners don't have the background to put the things in context and focus. We have a tendency to just ignore these things and go along in "peace". This "peace" is not the Shalom of God, which is the foundation for life and growth. It is a false peace that puts us to sleep, comes from ignoring each other and God's Truth and leads to boredom, alienation and despair.
Many people don't listen well enough to realize they don't understand or even disagree with some things in the sermon. This protects us from "conflict", but it prevents us from sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron. A good preacher prepares much more than he can deliver in the short time of a sermon. Listeners should confess their misunderstanding or lack of understanding and ask the preacher to explain things. This doesn't mean to start an argument, but to ask the preacher to teach us more. Then there can be growth and sharpening of understanding for our lives. Then the preachers will be encouraged to prepare and feed us better food.
May the Lord open our ears our minds and our hearts to His Word and to each other.
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