When it comes to preaching God’s Word, there are two dynamics at work. The first dynamic is the responsibility of the preacher to offer his life, time and skills for the sake of communicating God’s Word for the benefit of God’s people. The first dynamic has to do with speaking. The second dynamic involves the responsibility of the listener to offer his or her mind, heart and life to that which is being communicated. The second dynamic has to do with listening. Just as the preacher has the responsibility to speak, so the listener has the responsibility to listen.
Most preachers spend a lot of time preparing to preach. I cannot speak for every ordained pastor who stands in the pulpit week to week to preach, but I can speak for the few guys closest to me in ministry. More than a few minutes goes into the preparation of a sermon. We understand the need to study the topic or passage before us, gathering relevant information and illustrations that can help us communicate a particular truth in God’s Word. In brief, this sums up an important part of the first dynamic. Though it does not take into consideration the many life experiences a preacher undergoes in order to preach with clarity and conviction, it does highlight the responsibility of the preacher to speak effectively.
What then is to be said for the skills necessary for listening? To ask this another way, what specific steps can the listeners of Mountain View take to better hear what’s being said from God’s Word each week? Several years ago, pastor and author, Thabiti Anyabwile, coined a term called “expositional listening.” It refers to specific skills related to hearing what God’s Word is saying when it’s preached. Just as the preacher is called to preach the message of the text, so listeners are called to listen to the message of the text. Based upon Thabiti’s comments, let me offer two in this article.
First, meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time. I am now assuming that you have committed to the daily practice of spending time alone with God. Even if it’s not on a daily basis, the more time alone you can spend with God during the week, the better able you are to discern His voice among all of the other voices competing for your attention. As you get alone with God, with open Bible before you, take time to read and meditate upon the passage of Scripture for the upcoming sermon. We do our best to include the sermon Scripture in a mass email blast every Wednesday afternoon called WITT mail- Wednesday Information Through Technology. Both the songs we will sing as well as the Scripture reference are included. By taking the time to read and meditate upon the preacher’s focal passage, you begin to plow the soil of your heart in preparation for the seed that God may plant there on Sunday.
Secondly, invest in a good set of commentaries. Really, I’m serious! Please don’t tune me out. Just because you don’t have a college or seminary degree in religion and don’t teach a Sunday school class doesn’t mean you should not have at least one or two trustworthy commentaries as resources. Some of the greatest Christian minds that have ever walked with Christ can sit with you during your time alone with God as you read a passage of Scripture. A few that have helped me through the years include the works of Matthew Henry, John MacArthur, David Martin Lloyd Jones, Warren Weirsbe and James Montgomery Boice. A Bible dictionary such as, The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, and a concordance such as, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, would also be a good investment. Investing in a good set of commentaries and other reference books will go a long way in helping you become a better listener of God’s Word.
In summary, one of the ways to become fluent in the language of Zion is to pay careful attention to what Holy Spirit is saying through God’s Word as it’s preached. Growing in our ability to hear the voice of God comes from taking the time to meditate upon a passage before it is preached as well as considering the comments of other Christians who have studied the passage in years past. By taking these first few steps, we position ourselves to better hear the voice of God. And what sheep does not enjoy hearing the voice of their shepherd?