GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE PREACHING
Preaching is another important part of our worship to God. About half or more of our worship to God consists of hearing Godís Word proclaimed. However, in times past, preaching was more prominent. Just 30 years ago, the standard was for a man to preach for at least an hour. During the restoration period, it was uncommon for sermons to last for several hours. Even in the first century it lasted all night sometimes as we read in:
Acts 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.† 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.† 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.† 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him."† 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.
As these Christians came together to partake of the Lordís Supper, we can see that Paul preached to them until midnight and put poor Eutychus to sleep, and even though he fell to the ground from 3 stories, it did not stop Paulís preaching for long. He went down and I believe he brought him back to life, got a bite to eat and continued preaching until daybreak. I bet Eutychus didnít sit next to a window ever again while listening to someone preach. This event shows us that preaching was an important to the first century Christians and it should be important to all of us because when the preacher does his job right and preaches from the Bible the words he says can make a difference in our lives because his words are not his own. They come directly from Godís wisdom found in His Word.
Now you would think that most Christians would want to pay attention to Godís Word being proclaimed because after it is the bread of life and it gives us the instructions that we need to hear and apply to our lives, but some view preaching as boring and tiresome. I have heard stories of how some Christians would come to the worship service to partake of the Lordís Supper and then they would leave so they didnít have to hear the preaching. One church told me that started partaking of the Lordís Supper at the end of the service just so that would not happen because the people would have to stay and listen to preaching if they were going to get to partake of the Lordís Supper.
I couldnít hardly believe that was true, but it was. As Christians, we should never have that attitude about hearing Godís Word proclaimed. Notice what Paul said in:
Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.† 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."† 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?† 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"† 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"† 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I donít know how beautiful my feet are, but Paul makes it clear that preachers are necessary and they are to preach the Word of God so that people can grow their faith by listening to Godís Word being proclaimed.
When we realize that preaching is a vital part of our worship to God and that we can be encouraged and rebuked, which will help us grow as Christians, it should help us to listen more carefully and do everything we can to take the message we hear and apply to our lives and grow from it. When we do this, it will help us to get the most of the preaching.
Another thing that will help us to get the most of preaching is the preacher himself. He must understand the importance of presenting Godís truth and do his best to present a lesson that well structured and easy to follow. Of course the most important thing for a preacher to do is to preach the Word as Paul instructed Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:† 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.† 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;† 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.† 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Also, Paul told Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.† 7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
Paul did his best to train Timothy to be an effective preacher and to take his job seriously. In these verses, we have seen many things that preaching is designed to do. The lessons that are preached are designed to instruct Christians and nonChristians about Godís Word.
Sometimes it may convince us that changes need to be made in our life. Other times we might find ourselves being rebuked by what was said. For instance, if we have been telling a bunch a lies lately or spreading false rumors around and the preacher talks about how these things are abomination to the Lord, it will rebuke us and hopefully we will not to prideful to change our ways.
Other times the preaching can encourage us and build up our faith. For example, when we hear about the faithful men and women of the Bible and how God was always there for them it will encourage us. When the preacher talks about Godís grace or shows the internal or external evidence that we have the inspired Word of God, it will lift us up.
Sometimes the preaching will challenge us to become better servants of God than we were before. Other times it will help us to understand why some teachings are incorrect and why we should stay away from them, but the preacher can only do so much. He cannot force you to listen or to make Godís Word make difference in your life. That part is all up you.
So, I would suggest that if you want to get the most out of preaching, then you must be willing to listen and take what is said to heart. When Jesus went around preaching this new message, He ran across those who were not good listeners and those who were. His disciples wanted to know why he was speaking to the people in Parables and Jesus said:
Matthew 13:13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.† 14 "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;† 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'† 16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;†
There were many people that followed Jesus around just to see the miracles or just to be fed by Him. They were not interested in what he was saying, they were only hanging around for the benefits. Sometimes Christians are like this because they are not like Job who counted the word of God more necessary than His own food. No, they are more interested in the social aspect of the worship service or certain parts such as singing or partaking of the Lordís Supper.
When we are not interested in hearing Godís Word, then we are certainly not going to get anything out of it.
There also another kind of listener that loves to hear the preacher preach, but they donít allow the message to sink in. We can read about this kind of a listener in:
Ezekiel 33:30 " As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, 'Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.'† 31 "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.† 32 "Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.
This kind of listening wonít do us any good if we do not take the message to heart. As James said:
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.† 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;† 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.† 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Those who only listen to the preacher because they love the way he preaches, but they do not actively do those things they are hearing are deceiving themselves because we must listen and we must do. When we can really learn to listen and make the message apply to our lives, we will get the most we can out of the preaching.
To help you to become greater listeners, I would like to offer some suggestions that might help you.
1. You need to make listening part of your worship to God. In our previous lessons, we have talked about the importance of listening the words that we sing and listening to prayers as they are being led, and it just as important that we train ourselves to listen carefully to the sermon that is being presented. We know how important Godís Word, so it should not be hard for us to convince ourselves that we need to pay attention.
2. Make an effort to determine what the sermon is about. What is the subject and what are the points in the message. Every Christian should examine each lesson carefully because you will learn more that way, and you can make sure the preacher knows what he is talking about. If it helps takes notes. We need to be like the Bereans we read about in:
Acts 17:10 Then
the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to
Doing this will make you a greater listener.
3. It will also help you to pay attention by looking at the preacher. Many times a preacher may make certain facial expressions or use his hands or body movements to emphasis a point he is trying to make. If you keep you eyes on him instead of closing them or looking around, I can promise you that you will be able listen to him better.
4. When the preacher reads from the Bible, read along with him. One of the things I love about using power point is that I can put all my Scriptures on the screen and that everyone including the kids can look up and read along. Not only does this make it easy for everyone to be able to read along it also eliminates the version problem. If you are looking at the NIV, and preacher is reading from NKJV, then you will have a more difficult time following allowing because they are worded different, but the power point has the same version for everyone to read.
Even when a preacher doesnít use power point, you should open your Bibles to the passages they mention and read along with them. Most people learn more by hearing and seeing what is being read. So, be sure to participate by reading along with the preacher.
5. When we listen to someone preach, we donít need focus on the mispronounced words or try to make it our aim to find something we can disagree with. Instead, our main focus should be listening for how we can apply the message to our lives. I donít care how long you have been a Christian or how faithful you are, you can always find something that the preacher says from the Word that will encourage you, rebuke you, or challenge you to do better. When we can make that our focus, we will reap the benefit of each message.
6. We need to listen with a mind to take action from what we hear. As I said earlier, we cannot be hearers only, we must also be doers of Godís Word. So, when the preacher talks about how we can serve God better, we need to take what he says and put it into to practice. When the preacher reminds us to invite people to the church services, we need do best to invite as many people as we can. Whatever it may be, we need to actively pursue those things that will help us to grow and help the church to grow.
7. We need to prepare ourselves to listen to the Word of God. Before we come to the worship service, we should focus our thoughts or worshiping God. We can do this by praying beforehand or perhaps listening to church songs. Our main goal should be clearing our minds of our hectic schedules and putting our mind on God.†
I mentioned this is an earlier lesson, but we need to get enough sleep before we come to worship God so† we donít fall asleep during the message because there is no way for you to be edified by the preaching if you are sleeping through it. I understand this cannot be helped sometimes, but we need to do our best not to make it habit because we are robbing ourselves when we sleep through the message.
If we will keep these 7 things in mind, it will cause us to become better listeners and we will get the most of the preaching.
In conclusion, we have learned that preaching is an important part of our assembly. Jesus used it in His Ministry and He wants the gospel to be preached to every person on the face of the earth because preaching can save a lost soul and it can make a big difference in the life of a Christians because Godís Word will convict us, encourage us, and challenge us to be better servants of God. We owe it to ourselves to be good listeners to Godís Word because when we donít get the most of the preaching, we do ourselves a great disservice. So, listen well and be doers of Godís Word.