The service ends with “Amen.” You and your family stand, walk through the back of the church saying your goodbyes to other worshippers. You shake the pastor’s hand and tell him how much you enjoyed the service. Buckle the kids in and commence the routine post- church conversation/debriefing. At some point the phrase comes out, as it always does. “I love him as a pastor, but I just didn’t get anything out of that sermon.” This week your pastor preached over your head. Last week he targeted an age group other than yours. The week before he spent too much time telling about the historical setting, whatever that is. The week before he told too many stories. And the week before that he preached on money.
It is frustrating to sit through a sermon that seems to lack connection. You attend church to hear the proclaimed Word. Your Spirit longs for fresh truth. Your life desperately needs transformation based on the Scripture. So would you like to stop saying, “I just didn’t get anything out of that?” As a student of preaching, I have discovered a one-sided slant to most discussions about sermon connectivity. Pastors and parishioners alike place the brunt of sermon connectivity on the shoulders of the pastor. Most people say that it solely is his job to make sure the sermon is informational, inspiring, truthful and transformational. But I have discovered that the sermon experience is much like listening to the radio.
For your radio to work three key components must be present: the station must broadcast with enough power to transmit the radio waves to your antenna and your radio must be turned on and tuned into the proper frequency. The sermon experience is not that much different. Two components must be in place: the preacher must connect and you must be tuned in. If your preacher fails to connect you might say “I just didn’t get anything out of that.” BUT if you fail to tune in you will also leave church saying, “I just didn’t get anything out of that.” With this in mind I want to suggest three steps you can take to make sure you are doing your part to tune in every Sunday morning and get something out of the sermon.
Showing up obviously refers to the fact that you must be present at the sermon to get something out of it. Showing up goes beyond the physical and transcends into the mental and spiritual. It could be that at times you don’t get anything out of the sermon because you are mentally not there. You worry about the previous or coming week during the sermon event. Your mind wanders. Mentally you must show up and put effort into actively listening to the preacher. You must show up spiritually as well. Enter the sermon event prayerfully asking the Spirit to open your eyes to the revealed truth. If you listen with the attitude that this does not apply to me you will miss the movement of the Spirit who is able to connect every morsel of spiritual truth to your life. So if you want to stop saying “I just didn’t get anything out of that” start showing up!
In the parable of the wise man and fool found in Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus said that wise man was the one who “heard” the word. Jesus is referring to more than physical understanding of the spoken words. Other places He uses the phrase, “He who has ears to hear…” Jesus taught that when the word is proclaimed the hearing is both physical recognition of the audible sounds, and spiritual connection to the truth as it is applied to the listener’s life. Having ears to hear is the listener’s willingness to submit himself or herself to what is being taught. The key word – submission. To get something out of a sermon you must submit yourself to the truth being proclaimed, accept it as God’s directive to your life, and hear the transformational imperative delivered. You must give up your sovereignty and submit to the truth, not the preacher, but the truth he is proclaiming as the Spirit is applying to your life.
In the parable of the wise man Jesus went on to say that the wise man not only heard His words, but did them. If you develop the habit of living out the truths of the sermon each week you will experience two results: based on Colossians 1:9-11 God will give you deeper knowledge, wisdom and understanding in response to your obedient living and your heart will yearn more for more experiential knowledge in order to “please him in everything” thus your yearning will consequentially place the previous two steps in place. You will show up and give up in order to hear truth leading you to step up.
Imagine the next Sunday’s debriefing to be centered on what you heard and how you can live out the new-found truths. You will never be able to change your pastor’s preaching, you can pray that God will use him in a mightier way, but you can not change him. You can grow in your listening engagement. You can get more from the sermon. Try this: show up, give up, and step up.