How to Listen to a Sermon

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mind from Pastor David Staff

One of my favorite memories happened at the sanctuary exit door after I had preached a sermon.  The unintended antagonist was Ted Wilson, a devoted Jesus-disciple and dear friend, who is now with the Lord.

I was shaking hands, and Ted came through the line.  “Pastor,” he said with a straight face, “I have to apologize.”

“Why?” I wondered, taking his bait.

“Well, I’m sure you saw me dozing off this morning, and I need to explain. You see, usually, before I come, I take a NO-DOZ pill on my way to church.  But for some reason I can’t explain, this morning I managed to take SOMINEX (e.g., a sleeping aid).”

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized.
He was dead serious.

“Thanks, Ted. That helps (I think!),” I offered.

Listening well to sermons requires preparation, though I don’t recommend NO-DOZ.

Still, digesting a sermon without getting a stomach ache can be difficult.  One of my seminary preaching professors once remarked (tongue-in-cheek, as I recall), “I’ve listened to 7,000 sermons in the last 11 years.  It’s enough to make you an atheist!” 😊

Pastor Bob Hostetler (10 Things Everyone Wants in a Sermon) suggests that most of us are looking for the following 10 dynamics in a helpful teaching.

#10  “Grab my attention as soon as you start speaking”  (starting with “turn in your Bibles to…” just doesn’t cut it)

#9    “Teach me something I didn’t already know”  (something worthy writing down)

#8    “Tell me what God says, not what you say”

#7    “Don’t make me feel stupid because I don’t know the Bible as well as you”  (If you wan me to turn to a passage, give me time)

#6    “Make me like you, help me to get to know you a little bit.”

#5    “Make me laugh!”

#4    “Show me you understand what I’m going through”  (acknowledge struggles)

#3    “Touch my emotions” (I want to be inspired)

#2    “Meet a felt (and real) need”

#1    “Tell me clearly how I might apply what God has said to my life today, this week”

The Lord Jesus Christ as a master as teaching God’s word like this.  No compelling preacher ignores factors like these that connect with his audience.


If I may, let me ask you to do something other than guzzle a “grande” Starbucks or pop a caffeine pill!

#5     Get up early enough Sunday morning and spend 10 minutes in prayer.
  “Lord, today—at church—speak clearly to me”

#4    Bring a Bible and something to write with. [Invest in a small notebook.  Look for and write out significant ideas God’s Spirit whispers to your heart]

#3    Open to the passage(s) mentioned by the speaker, and look specifically at the verses, and its words.  [they are “God-breathed,” living and active]

#2     Land on ONE specific truth to write down and remember.  Jot down a thought about HOW to apply it

#1     Discuss your notes with your spouse or friends over lunch.  Ask others what they learned while sharing  what God said to you.

My final suggestion would be to use the Sominex pill about 2:00 PM, after lunch.  Have yourself a great Sunday afternoon nap!

See you Sunday morning…
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