LISTEN UP: How to Listen to a Biblically Inadequate Sermon

As you’re listening to a sermon, have you ever had the sense that the preacher didn’t really know what he was talking about?  Perhaps you’re a pastor and if you’re honest you’ve felt that you didn’t quite know what you were talking about during a particular sermon!  I think we’ve all been there before.  The sermon may be well-presented, interesting, clear, but lacking something.  It seems that the message of the pastor isn’t really the message of the passage, that something keeps going wrong with this sermon.  How do we listen to sermons like this?

First, avoid a critical spirit.

In Luke 11:54 certain people are described by “waiting to catch Jesus in something He might say.”  Some people really do come into church week after week looking for things wrong with the sermon.  With Jesus, it was impossible to find error.  With preachers today, I’m afraid it’s easier because pastors are merely human too, who err, fumble, and fall over words as the rest of us do.  But though this is true there is something wrong and sinful with being a person who’s great aim in church attendance is fault-finding.  Rather than meeting with God through His Word, we leave the sermon feeling good about ourselves, that we were able to uncover the error amid the truth.  How clever of us!  Wrong.  This is foolish and needs repentance.

Second, avoid being gullible.

With all of this said above, we must ensure we are not gullible to believe everything the pastor says.  This is what the famous Bereans of Acts 17:11 did, they looked into the Scriptures to see if what Paul preached was true.  Do you do that?  Do you look into the Word as the sermon is taking place or afterwards to ensure your pastor is staying with the text?  If we find error in the sermon, great! Let’s not believe it, and tell our pastor with a gracious and humble spirit.  A wise pastor will always be glad for honest correction.  If that kind of correction of inquiry isn’t possible in your church, something is wrong.  If we don’t find error in the sermon, great!  Let’s believe it, embrace it, and build our lives on what we heard.

Either way, through the whole sermon (at your own church or one you’re visiting) you can pray asking God to seal within you what is true from that message.  Usually 10 times of 10, something true will be said that merits greater and deeper attention.  What do you do when you see those things?  Give it the attention it deserves, and submit to what you find in the Word.

God will change you.

(Adapted from LISTEN UP! Christopher Ash, 2009)

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