I was once given a book called ‘101 things to do during a boring sermon’. If one of the things you regularly do is preaching it is hard to know how to take such a gift. I could take it as a subtle hint that I needed to lift my game or I could take it as a compliment since the person who gave it to me must not have any need for it any more… I wish.
You might wonder how many boring sermons you have had to endure in your life but I wonder how many boring sermons I have delivered. You might feel like the sermon did not engage you but I wonder why we are not eager to engage the word of God.
Sometimes I rightly feel the need to apologise for the boring sermons you have had to endure and sometimes I wonder if they have been boring because of the way we approach listening to sermons. I guess this reflects the reality that in any communication there are two parties involved. If the speaking party has not prepared and delivered well they can lose their listener but if the listening party is not overly interested then they will switch off no matter how well prepared and delivered the speaker was.
‘Being bored’ or ‘switching off’ in a sermon can also be a reflection of what we expect in a sermon. If you expect to be entertained, given a thought for the week that will improve your sense of well being and sent home feeling good then my bet is I have let you down far more times that I could count. Whilst God gave me a sense of humour he did not gift me to be an entertainer and apart from this a funny entertaining sermon is not what I am aiming for. My aim is to faithfully understand, communicate and apply God’s word to God’s people not to give us a 20 minute pep talk or light entertainment.
It might not be immediately apparent to some but I regularly seek to become a better preacher (by this I mean Biblically faithful and clear) however at the same time I wonder how often we work at becoming better listeners of sermons.
Recently I came across a small booklet called “Listening up – a practical guide to listening to sermons”. I thought it was such a good book I bought a heap and would like to offer them to you. Whilst they cost me $3 I am happy to give them to you for free. Please grab one and if we run out I will get some more.
I know I can always improve in my communication and application of God’s word to his people but I am sure you / we can always improve on your / our listening skills. I hope it helps us both as we seek to grow under God’s word to the glory and honour of his name.