Summary: Part 1 in series How to Listen to a Sermon, this message observes Christ's words about receptivity being the essential thing that is needed, and explores the idea of receptivity.
How to Listen to a Sermon, prt. 1
Wildwind Community Church
January 2, 2011
Welcome to our first church service of 2011! What I am going to talk to you about today is something I have known for a long time I wanted to approach with you, but I didn’t know when the time would be right. The time is right today.
If you attend church somewhat regularly, you will probably listen to between 30 and 40 sermons this year. If you have been with us for five years, and have attended somewhat regularly, you have listened to between 150 and 200 sermons at Wildwind. If you have attended church somewhat regularly for ten years, you have heard somewhere between 300 and 400 sermons. If you have attended regularly for 20 years, you have heard between 600 and 800. I know a few in this church have attended church nearly every single Sunday for 40 years, and those people have heard between 1200 and 1600 sermons, and because I know how faithful some of our people have been in their attendance, I’ll bet they have heard 45 sermons a year for 40 years, which puts their lifetime sermon ingestion at 1800. Some of you have favorite preachers that you listen to on the radio, or perhaps now on podcasts – that of course adds to your lifetime sermon total. Think for a moment about how many sermons you have listened to in your life – that will be important in just a moment. I’ll bet we have people in this church who have listened to upwards of 3000 sermons in their lifetime.
Now whatever group you fall into, whether you are fairly new to Wildwind and have only heard a few of my sermons, whether you have been at Wildwind for a few years and have heard many of my sermons, or whether you have attended many churches over many decades and have heard sermons by perhaps hundreds of preachers in church and at camps and on the radio, my question for you is the same. Have you ever heard a sermon on how to listen to a sermon? If you are positive that you have heard a sermon before on how to listen to a sermon, please raise your hand.
No one. Doesn’t that seem odd? Think about it for a second. Oftentimes when we attend a class at school, the instructor will make it clear how we can best understand what is being taught. They’ll tell you they use handouts, or videos. They’ll tell you whether or not it might be a good idea for you to take notes. They’ll tell you roughly what you are going to be tested over and expected to know and understand. In fact every student knows that usually when you start a new class, the instructor spends almost the entire first class session telling you how to proceed through the class – how to hear and understand the lecture and how to think about what you are hearing – how to process it in in-class discussion groups – and what is at stake when you have to miss a class. So broadly speaking, it is a general practice when you start to learn something, that the instructor doesn’t just start spewing out information, but tells you how to hear what is being said.
The reason pre-marital (and often post-marital!) counseling is so valuable is because communication is always complex. There’s what your partner believes they are saying, then how they are saying it, then what you are hearing them say, and then what you believe about what they are saying. Do you see how treacherous this is? No wonder communication in an intimate relationship is so difficult. When Christy has a thought, feeling, or idea and chooses to share it with me, it has to clear all those hurdles! She has to somehow take her idea or intention, get it into words that accurately capture what it is, and then deliver those words to me. Once she has done that, it’s completely out of her hands what happens next. I then hear what she is saying (assuming I am listening to begin with, and we won’t even cover how many communication problems come from people not even listening!), and lay my own interpretations and beliefs and understandings onto it. That’s why my feelings and opinions about what Christy just said may actually have very little to do with what she wanted to say and what she thought she was saying. That’s the reason why couples go endlessly around and around about the same things year after year. Each assumes they are speaking clearly, and each assumes they are hearing clearly, when in fact neither of them is either speaking or hearing clearly.