“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
-Psalm 119:105, ESV
One of the things that is almost guaranteed to happen Sunday after Sunday is this: a sermon will be preached. My preaching professor often reminded his students that Sunday rolls around every seven days. No duh. And as pastors, we’re expected to preach something substantial when the following Sunday makes its way around again. The unrelenting regularity of preaching is there for good reason. The Word of God is incredibly important and it has the power to shape who we are as a people of God. The apostle Paul told Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). It’s no wonder that a substantial amount of emphasis is placed upon the proper preaching of God’s Word. We, as individuals and as communities of worship, benefit greatly from hearing and understanding the Word of God.
Regardless of the many opinions on preaching (and there are plenty out there), I believe Sunday preaching is here to stay. At least for the next little while. I’m not here to challenge the concept of preaching. I simply point out that whenever Sunday rolls around, there’s almost a guarantee that the preaching of God’s Word will take place. And if that’s the case, we might as well get the most out of those weekly sermons. Along with the rest of the elements of a worship service, preaching is there to refresh us, to re-orient us, to educate us, to train us, and to re-energize us. God will use the preaching of His Word to call us back to Him and His ways, His goals, and His desires. So how can we get more out of those sermons? Well, here are four practical suggestions that might help you do just that.
Always come with anticipation.
God speaks through His Word. If that’s the case, we must come every Sunday in anticipation that the Lord will say something to us personally and corporately through the preaching of His Word. And so, come every Sunday with a heart that is willing to receive. Come with ears that are ready to listen. Come with a mind that is prepared to engage. Whether the Lord will speak to us is never in question. He will. Whenever the Word of God is read out loud, God has already begun to speak. What will likely be in question is whether or not we’re ready to receive what God has to say. And so, always come with great anticipation and preparedness knowing that the Lord will say something to you.
Take down notes.
There’s a very simple reason why I encourage people to take down notes during a sermon. Human beings in general have pretty poor memories. Unless you’ve got an eidetic memory, chances are you’re going to quickly forget what the sermon was all about. And so jotting down a few notes might make the difference between a sermon that makes a lasting difference and a sermon that was “just another sermon.”
Reflect on what you’ve learned.
During the week, take some time to reflect on the passage that was read and on the notes that you took down. Take the sermon out of Sunday and bring it with you during the week. Once a week, I take extra time to reflect on the things that God had taught me during the last 7 days which includes the sermon that I listened to (or preached myself). I summarize all the learning that took place on a page in my journal. This has been greatly beneficial in reminding me of the things that God has been teaching me lately.
Make actionable steps.
After each sermon, think of actionable steps that you can begin to do to put God’s Word into practice. Hearing and understanding the Word of God is only half the equation to a transformed life. The other half is obedience to God’s revealed Word. James exhorts us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22, ESV). Every time I preach, I encourage people to complete a simple statement to help propel them towards action:
“After listening to God’s Word today, I’m going to ____________________.”
After each sermon, find time to complete that statement. Make whatever it is you intend on doing simple, concrete, and doable within the week. Hopefully that will propel you towards better obedience to God’s Word.
Well, I hope these suggestions will help you get more out of those sermons you listen to every single Sunday.