Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good Preaching Vs Bad Listening

There is an extreme, and yet unwarranted pressure put on preachers and teachers that periodically need to be addressed. It seems that since the days of Chrysostom, riveting oratorio prowess is the main qualification of a pastor. Men are chosen or selected by a congregation more so on his ability to effectively hold the attention of a congregation than any spiritual qualities. I am well aware that one of the qualifications for an elder is the ability to teach, or transmit God’s word to His people. There is certainly no excuse for men who do not study or prepare or who have no ability in the delivery of a message or lesson. I have heard my share of bad sermons that should never have been delivered. I recognize the toughness of today’s competition in reaching and holding the common attention span. In an age of special effects and CGI, preaching without added animation can seem to be boring. We must keep in mind, preaching is not an art form of entertainment, nor is simply an inspirational message. Preaching is God speaking to our hearts through His Word. Just as there is a skill in communicating principles from God’s word, there is an art or skill, if you would in listening. When people complain about the fact that they, “didn’t get anything out the message”, or that the message was boring or dry, I wonder how much effort was spent in really listening to what was being said. We need to prepare ourselves to hear, actively listen, and then work to retain what we have heard. Christopher Love (d. 1651), was a pastor of a church in London, and he wrote a book of his sermons on mortification called The Mortified Christian He included a chapter called “The Right Hearing of Sermons.” Here are seven practical directions for listening to the preaching of the word. 1) Take heed that you hear the Word of God preparedly. As the preacher must take care to find acceptable words, so the people should labor to bring acceptable affections to the work – when we come to the service of God we should hear with all attention and pray with affection. 2) Hear the Word attentively, as those did in Acts 8.6. Those who hear the Word with gazing eyes, wandering thoughts, and sleepy bodies cannot hear it attentively, but are to be reproved. 3) Hear the Word of God retentively. Labor to keep in your memory what you hear, that you may put it into practice for your life. Hearing is for practice’s sake. This also has to do with treasuring the Word, so it will have a continual impression upon your hearts. 4) Hear the Word understandingly. Christ called the multitude and bade them hear and understand. This is what the Bereans did. 5) Hear the Word applicatively. If a patient has never such excellent counsel given him, never so powerful a medicine prescribed, if he does not apply it, it will do him no more good than if he had never known it. 6) Hear the Word of God reverentially. Many people represent God to themselves in such familiar notions that they ultimately breed a contempt of God which we ought not to have. We must demean ourselves with a humble reverence in His presence.
7) Hear the Word of God obediently. Come…ready, prepared, and disposed to stoop and submit to all the instructions, corrections, and reproofs of the Word of God, like those spoken of in Acts 10.33

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