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5 Strategies to Get More Out of the Sermon

You have a role to play in helping your preacher preach better. At the top of the list are time and prayer.

A sermon, like any form of communication, can go in one ear and out the other. Worse, a sermon can find hospitality in the head and hostility in the heart. Many of us struggle with the weekly homily. We struggle applying it, remembering it, living it out, and making sense of it in a world wherein we hear so many messages all the time.

Try theses 5 Strategies to “Getting” the Sermon.

1. Dwell In The Word. If Sunday morning is the first or only time you’ve spent in the scriptures this week, you’re bound to miss a great deal. Understanding God means encountering him in the scriptures. Knowing the scriptures will give  the sermons a depth and richness that only accompany knowing the Bible.

2. Take Your Own Notes. Provided and fill-in-the-blank notes are largely useless! Why? Because these notes are limited to what the presenter thinks is most important and tempts you to check-in and check-out based on when the PowerPoint Slides changes. Don’t check your brains at the narthex. God may have something distinct in mind for you to gain from the sermon. Each scripture passage is deep, rich, and meaningful but only so much can be covered in 20-minutes, um, I mean 40 minutes. 🙂

3. Bring Your Own Bible. Many churches provide Bibles for new Christians and guest, but for old hands, there’s nothing as good as thumbing through your Bible. Make notes in it. Highlight meaningful texts and chronicle insights that are meaningful to you. My Bible is a kind of journal of my with-God life. When a teacher or preacher says something important or I gain a new insight, I jot it down beside the text and the reference and notes serve me for the rest of my life. Not only that but by using my own Bible – and not being dependent on the screen – I learn the biblical text and memorize scripture. It’s a way of taking responsibility for my own attention to God’s Word.

4. Listen Again.With modern technology, sermons don’t expire at noon on Sunday. Anyone in the world can go online and listen to my sermons as many times as they’d like. (This isn’t just about my sermons. I  listen to sermons each week from other pastors. And I don’t just listen once. Listening again and again allows me to grasp deeper and deeper meanings.) If you do this, sooner or later you’ll get a feel for your preacher and how they walk through a text. This will help you glean more from each sermon.

5. Ask, Prod, and Seek. Guess what? You’re preacher won’t be offended if you need further guidance or have questions about something. They’ll probably be shocked! Though they may point you in the direction of a book or article with a fuller treatment of the issue, your pastor wants you to “get it.” Here’s a crazy idea; Ask your preacher to point you in the direction of the resources they use. Next week, you may be ahead of him or her!

What helps you get a better grasp of the sermon? What key elements have I missed?

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  • I really like this Sean. I said in my sermon Sunday that unless we intentionally meditate and contemplate the text, we will never make any spiritual progress in our own hearts. I told them that I doubted any of them could tell me what the sermon was about 24 hours later! Exaggeration? Maybe some could get a general idea… but life is too frantic and there are too many voices. Anyway…great post!

  • Following on from #4 is the idea of Review-and-Discuss: our Life Group discussions seek to focus on, or at least dive into, how the message from the sermon affected us. Taking that time to mull over the ideas and meanings, in community, has blessed me greatly over the past two years.

    • Thanks Nick,

      Help me out with something. My experience has been that in small groups, when the group reflects and discusses, I’ve rarely seen the group really stick with the topic or text and struggle with it. My experience has been mostly deflection. Deflection in the form of saying, “I didn’t understand why he said…” or picking up some small ancillary point of contention with the preacher and or something he said, (i,e, “I didn’t agree with…). These, I think, are ways to get around struggling through the text and it’s implications. Does your small group have that problem? How do group members/leaders handle it?

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