LISTEN UP: Check the Preacher is Preaching the Text

Where did he get that from?

This is a double-edged question.  It can be great for those who yearn to look back into the text that was just preached on for more study and information.  It can also be a condemning question because if it cannot be answered the preacher failed to do his job….or you failed to do your job, listening.

No one likes to be brainwashed.  This is pretty much true across the board for all people.  Also, it normally accepted that we should never be people who engage in activities that encourage us to turn our critical thinking skills off.  Yet when people listen to a sermon they do this almost instantly thinking, wrongly, that a sermon is something that just happens to you and that nothing is required of the hearer other than being present.  Why is this so?  Laziness, ignorance, cultural norms, and a hundred other excuses could be thought of I’m sure.  Too many people uncritically accept what preachers say without opening the Bible for themselves, and because this has been going on for many, many, many years we see why most Christians today are Biblically illiterate.  This is not good.

Because the common so-called ‘believers’ today are ignorant of is the Bible you rarely hear someone asking if what the preacher said lined up with the text of the sermon.  One would think that this wouldn’t be an issue, or that a preacher would never wander away from the Biblical text to make his own points or craft a sermon around his own ideas and used various Bible verses to back himself up, BUT it happens everyday and it is a sad thing indeed.  ‘Where did he get that from?’ is one of the most helpful questions you can ask when listening to a sermon because if you’re having trouble answering it and cannot find where he ‘got it from’ the preacher is just giving you his own opinion and has lost all authority.  But if upon asking ‘where did he get it from?’ you can easily see that the origin and the ideas being presented are in the text itself, you can rest assured that what you’re hearing is authoritative for your life because the preacher isn’t preaching his own mind, but the very Word of God.

This is not a question of how well the preacher is doing.  It is not a question of preaching style.  Rather it is a question of content, where did the preacher get his info from?  Why is he saying the things he is saying?  Too often I have been in churches where a passage of Scripture is read at the beginning of the sermon only to hear that very passage (or any other passage) never come into play in the sermon again.  After reading it the pastor merely went off in his own direction giving a bunch of illustrations while using all sorts of Christian language.  Good right?  WRONG!  It’s as if the Biblical text is being used a tool or launching pad for the pastor’s sermon, rather than the Biblical text being the basis of the pastor’s sermon.  Who do these people think they are?  Do they know better what the congregation needs than God?  Of course they don’t, and to avoid the Bible in the sermon is an arrogant thing to do.  Pastors who do such non-sense ought to stop pastoring because they’re whoring around with the Bible by using it for their own personal agenda rather than submitting themselves to its agenda.  It helps no one and it dishonor’s God.

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Everything on TV or the internet is true.’ and laughed because we know it to be false.  You can’t trust all of what you see or hear.  You have to use critical thinking skills to determine if what is being presented is actually factual or not.  So too, you can’t trust everything that is said in a sermon either.  The Christian must weigh the points made to see if those are the points the text makes.  If it is, amen!  If it is not, don’t embrace it and tell your pastor he ought to do a better job of sticking to the text, or choose a different profession.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open our minds so that we listen clearly, think clearly, and discern clearly whether a sermon is true to the Bible or not.  Again, you never do this in your 9-5 life, so why do you do it church?

Steps to take:

1) Read the passage or listen carefully when it is read.

2) What do you think is the main point of the passage?

3) Is the main thrust of the passage the main thrust of the sermon?

4) Are there any surprises in the text, where the Bible says something you didn’t expect it to say?  Or says something in a way you’d never expected it to say it?

5) Who was the passage originally written to?  Are we in the same situation as they were?  Can we apply to the text to us today in the same way the text was applied to the original audience?

6) Why do you think the Bible includes this passage in it?

7) Pray as you study and listen: ‘Lord, teach me, teach me, teach me.’

Adapted from LISTEN UP! Christopher Ash, 2009

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