Preachers face a lot of pressure these days. We live in a day and age marked by easy access to an amazing caliber of preaching. This means the bar is set extraordinarily high for the average preacher. It's intimidating to know that your audience podcasts pastors like Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, James MacDonald, Steven Furtick, Matt Chandler, and John Piper throughout the week and then shows up to hear you on Sunday.
Pastors should be working hard to preach the best sermons possible, but the best sermon is only as good as the audience listening. Preaching is a two-way street. The preacher is responsible for preaching well, and the audience is responsible for listening well.
Listening is a lost art in our culture, so how should we listen to a sermon?
Pray for yourself. Pray that the Spirit would prepare your heart to receive what He would say to you. Pray for your preacher. Pray the Spirit would empower him to preach with clarity, courage, and conviction. Getting God's Word into your heart is a supernatural act, and we are dependent upon the Spirit for this work. This means we should listen to sermons prayerfully.
In Luke 16:17 Jesus told His disciples, "The one who hears you hears me…" This means that when God's Word is faithfully preached, it's not the preacher who speaks, but the very Spirit of God. Do you get that?! Do you expect to hear from God when you're listening to your preacher? When we gather, God speaks! This means we should listen to sermons expectantly.
Preachers aren't performers. It's not your preacher's job to put on a show for you and keep you entertained for 30-40 minutes on Sunday mornings. You're not a passive participant, you're an active element in the sermon. Take notes. Pay attention. It's ok to laugh at your poor preachers jokes. Steward your body language. Say, "Amen," if your tradition allows it and the content calls for it. Help your preacher preach. We should listen to sermons actively.
We sit "under" preaching in order to receive instruction, correction, conviction, and encouragement from the Word of God. Receiving requires humility. Listen carefully and critically, but do so humbly. Don't be a judge with a score card, but a beggar in need of Biblical nourishment. Don't resist the Spirit. Kill your pride, submit to God, and listen to sermons humbly.
Preaching is a gift from God by which He speaks to His people. If we take this for granted, grow apathetic, or become calloused to this gift, we will miss God's grace in it. Instead, let's strive to honor God and our preachers by listening to sermons prayerfully, expectantly, actively, and humbly.