Sometimes people complain that they didn’t get much out of a sermon. Often (maybe even most of the time) this is the fault of the preacher, but sometimes this can be the fault of the listener. There are certain steps you can take to prepare yourself to get the most out of a sermon on any given Sunday at any given church. Here are some tips:
1. Bring your Bible
If you are listening to an explanation of a Bible passage, but don’t have it open before your eyes, it can feel a little like listening in on someone else’s conversation — it’s hard to track with all that is being said. Make a note to bring your Bible to church, and have it open before you during the sermon. Not only will it aid in your listening, it will help you find your way around your Bible.
2. Take notes
Some people take notes on sermons and even review those notes the following week. But even if you never look at your notes again after that particular Sunday, it’s still a valuable exercise to take notes during a sermon because it forces you to listen for main points, Scriptural references, and specific applications. So don’t just bring your Bible — bring a pen and notepad also.
3. Consider that preaching is not entertainment
Because we live in such an entertainment-dominated culture, people can sometimes assume that the preacher’s job is to amuse, and so they fall into a passive stance, waiting for their ears to be tickled. In Nehemiah 8, the book of the law was found and read aloud before the people, and v. 3 tells us that “the people were attentive to the book of the law.” A preacher should do everything he can to avoid being boring, but fruitful listening requires active concentration.
4. Get enough sleep
The sleep I speak of here is not to be gained during the sermon, but before. Generally people will go to bed at a reasonable hour when they have to work the next day, because they want to be alert and engaged on the job. The same applies to Sunday morning worship. On the occasions when you are sleepy, and you just can’t avoid it, consider getting out of your seat and standing in the back of the sanctuary. It’s very hard to fall asleep while standing up!
5. Ask God to bless the preaching you hear
How often do you pray before a service and ask God to bless the sermon to the edification of your soul? Preachers pray that they will preach well; listeners should pray that they listen well. You can make this simple and just pray Ps. 119:18 —
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things (in your Word).”