How often have we heard a wonderful sermon and left really challenged or encouraged by what we have heard? And how often have we left a church feeling “I didn’t get anything out of that sermon”?
Be honest. We’ve all experienced that second one, possibly more often than we would like to admit! No matter the speaker, no matter the church, no matter the message, sometimes we just don’t get anything out of a sermon. And it’s very easy to place the blame on the preacher being ‘not very good this week’! But perhaps we should look closer to home, and look at whether we are really doing all we can to benefit from the message. If we are just sitting there listening, perhaps there is more we can do to ensure we get the very best out of the message. Below are just a few things we can do as members of a congregation to ensure we get the most out of every sermon.
1) Come prepared and prayerful!
We need to remember it is not the preacher who will be speaking to us, but God. We need to come to the service having prayed that He will open our hearts and eyes to receive His message each week. And we certainly need to come mentally ready and prepared to receive that message-if we rush to church with our minds still cluttered with a dozen and one other things, there is little chance the message will find room in our busy minds. We need to be focused on God to receive that focused message back!
2) Take notes!
None of us are such geniuses that we have the mental capacity to store everything the preacher says in our brains. So why not take notes? Notes will enable you to put down key points and will help you recall the main message from the preaching. And of course, the benefits of note-taking is that you have something you can come back to time and time again.
3) Listen again!
Each sermon, certainly in our church, is recorded. And this shouldn’t just be for the benefit of those who couldn’t attend at the time. This should also be something we all can utilise in order to listen back several times to the message. The more we listen, the more we can get out of the message. It’s often said with a good movie or good book that you can understand more and more of the depths of them by watching or reading them several times. Likewise with a sermon, you will find you can get a whole new level of understanding by listening to them again, and if there are parts that you found difficult the first time, then listening at home alongside other study aids may well help aid your understanding.
4) Ask the preacher!
The preacher isn’t just a robotic delivery system that outputs the sermon and then disappears until the next time. The preacher will often be around, and will always be happy to discuss any points you want clarifying further in the sermon you just heard. And if you can’t get hold of the preacher, then discuss it with one another. Ask other Christians, particularly those who are older in the faith, for their explanation of what you just heard. Discussion can be really enlightening. A sermon is not meant to end when the service ends, it should be something you long to talk further about, and gain more from through further discussion.
None of these things will guarantee that you will get something out of every service. And you should never feel discouraged if you leave feeling you got nothing out of a particular sermon. Sometimes a sermon that didn’t touch you at all will have been exactly what someone a few seats away from you needed that day. But if we train ourselves to try and get the most out of every sermon, rather than relying on the preacher to do all the work, then we will certainly find our experience of preaching to be a lot more satisfying!
Of course, we are there to give us much to God as we are to ‘get something’ from the sermon, and of course this doesn’t absolve the responsibility of our preachers to give us a good sound message each week, but if we want any sort of satisfaction from our services, then maybe we need to put more effort into how we approach our church attendance and participation.