Preaching is one of the things that I enjoy most about my calling as a pastor. Sermon writing and delivery really is an art of sorts, but unlike most other creative pursuits, the next time to share is never more than 6 days away. I did not start preaching every week until my early 30’s, so I spent plenty of time sitting in the congregation listening and learning, engaged or bored. I have heard great pastors give life changing sermons and I have heard the same ones preach not so good ones. I have also heard sermons that were much easier to be critical of than they were to listen with an open heart.
I work hard to listen to the LORD for what I am suppose to bring to the congregation each week, but I know sometimes I miss the mark in communicating the points God has put on my heart. I am also realistic about the challenge of preparing a message that might reach people of at all stages of life and in much different places in their walk with Jesus. I imagine it is rare that on any given week that everyone listening will be grabbed by the power of my speaking (as in it probably will never happen).
I still listen to others preach. I visit other church when I’m not at BUMC and I catch other preachers on YouTube and podcasts. Over the years, I’ve learned the secret to having every sermon impact my walk with Jesus regardless of it’s quality. I have learned to drop the critical spirit and expect that God ALWAYS has something to say to me in the message. Here are a few tips that might be helpful in our approach to worship.
These encouragements are really for anyone listening to a sermon, and can help everyone more deeply connect. Try one or all of the following: 1) Approach worship from a place of prayer. Maybe Saturday evening or Sunday morning, pray that God would prepare your heart for worship and that you would hear what God needs you to hear (you can also pray that the preacher is empowered by the Holy Spirit!). 2) Do some prayerful follow up. Take your bulletin home, reread Sunday’s scripture and ask God what you need to hear. Revisit a verse from a hymn that struck you in a certain way and rest in that word. Seek the Holy Spirit for wisdom regarding a specific application to your life from the scripture or the message. 3) Take notes during the sermon. We have place on the back of the bulletin for notes, but we also have some youth who have started using sermon notebooks to record their thoughts and questions. If God gets your attention with something early in the sermon feel free to pray and reflect on that one point. Maybe that’s all God needs you to hear and the rest of the sermon is for someone else.