Tell me this, who is a better sermon listener?
Person 1 has an iPod full of sermons and barely any music. John Piper, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and other famous preachers fill up the iPod almost to full. By having all these sermons so readily accessible person 1 has been able to log thousands of hours listening to sermons from many different preachers. But person 1 rarely goes to church anymore because better preaching is available online for free.
Person 2 doesn’t have an iPod full of sermons from all the popular guys though he has heard of them and is gaining more of an appreciation for them. When person 2 goes to church every week they have trouble paying attention to the sermon their own pastor is preaching because his pastor doesn’t always hit home runs. But the main point is usually clear, faithful to the text,theologically truthful, and meaningfully applied. Person 2 knows this pastor, has a feeling he prays for him regularly, and sincerely feels his pastor is interested in his life.
Who is a better listener? Person 2, hands down. Why? Person 2 not only understands that the most important preacher in his life is the one who preaches to him every week, but he understands the principle at play here: the normal place for hearing the Word of God preached is in the gathering of the local church (Deut. 4:10, Acts).
The Church is to hear sermons preached as they gather together, firstly but not only to hear the Word together, but to be shaped together into the people God is making them to be, to be accountable to one another as they hear from God together, and one of the best things about it is that while you gather together to hear the Word preached is that you can respond together to the Word preached as one people.
Do not misunderstand me here. Listening to online famous preachers is good not bad. Many good podcasts abound out there, and you should be listening to them. But listening to your own pastor, in person, is not only a good thing to do, it is a better thing to do. John Piper, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller and any other famous guy most likely doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your story, your struggles, and to be honest they don’t regularly pray for you. I listen to many sermons/podcasts throughout the week, have been to many conferences to listen to the big preachers preach, and have even met a few of them in the past. I have been greatly helped by these men. But whats in view here is not a choice between what is bad and what is good, but between what is good and what is better. The truth remains: the most important preacher in the life of any Christian is the one they sit before week in and week out.
The question while listening to the iPod sermon is ‘What is God saying to me?’ The question while listening to sermons with/in your church is ‘What is God saying to us?’ The focus is off of you as an individual and the focus is brought back to what it should be: the Church as a whole, which you are a member of. We do life together, learn together, grow together, and respond together regularly.
Practical steps to take:
1) Make it a priority to be in your church weekly to hear the Word of God preached.
2) Encourage others to do the same.
3) Recognize that preparation for Sunday worship doesn’t begin Sunday morning, but earlier. Re-orient your schedule to benefit you on Sundays. (Meaning that you probably won’t be listening well on Sundays if you stay up till 3 am the night before…just saying)
4) Embrace that you can’t live the Christian life alone, you need the Church.
5) Pray God would give you a desire to sit under His Word together with the rest of your congregation.
Adapted from LISTEN UP! Christopher Ash, 2009