The Two-Way Communication in a Sermon

We all do it sometimes.

When I was in seminary, I heard a funny story about one of my theology professors. One day he was lecturing on a very intellectual subject. He wasn’t the most exciting of lecturers, but this one day, he was especially boring! It didn’t help that he had a European accent that was hard to understand. By the end almost every head was down on their desk. Finally the bell rang ending the class. Suddenly before anyone could exit, he perked up and said “You will have to excuse me for my lecture this morning, as I was taking a little snooze.” He was lecturing in his sleep!

I don’t think that has happened to me while I was preaching, but I have certainly had my share of other heads nodding in sleep. Its hard not to. It’s been a busy week and we are tired and when all we are doing is sitting there, the eyelids get heavy and soon our head goes down. I have done the same thing many, many times in the pews.

But it doesn’t have to be so. If we understand what preaching is, it may change how we listen.

Most times we think of a sermon as a place where the preacher pours information into our brains and we are to simply take it in. We think of it as one way like a television show, we sit and watch, then walk away done. But a sermon is far more than that – its communication, two-way communication!

In Acts 17:11, we see the Bereans had that very different view of preaching, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” You see they were interacting with it, checking the scriptures and even more receiving it eagerly. They were, once they were convinced it was true, applying it to their lives and being changed by it. They were actively engaging it.

Now granted back in the Apostle Paul’s day, the style of preaching was more interactive, people asking questions and shouting out what they thought. Our western cultural style is more reserved. Usually it is just the preacher talking, but there are many other ways of interacting and communicating back to the speaker. Certainly body language says a lot, leaning forward shows interest and a desire to follow along. A puzzled look on the face or a nod of agreement lets the preacher know how he’s coming across. Having a Bible out, thumbing through the pages or taking notes in the bulletin can really communicate a Berean attitude.

Usually it’s considered impolite to interrupt the message with feedback, but the communication doesn’t have to stop with the concluding prayer. There’s always the word at the door as you are heading out or stopping some other time to express what you thought. A thank-you is nice, but I especially am encouraged when people say how the message affected them, even if they disagree. Though we shouldn’t go overboard with a sermon critique, I find the feedback helpful and I can certainly learn some things, too.

Two Way Communication

Of course the biggest way is to let the message impact your life. A demonstration like that speaks volumes. So consciously applying it in a planned way is a key step. Even if you have been a believer for years, and maybe you’ve heard most every sermon out there, isn’t there still some growth needed in your sanctification? Make the change and tell people, especially the preacher. That helps for full communication.

And that’s one of the goals on a Sunday morning, full, two-way communication of God’s truth.

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Fighting the Wrong Battle?

Hiroo Onada c. 1944

Did you ever hear the story of the Japanese soldier, who continued fighting World War 2 until 1974? It’s a true story and his name is Hiroo Onada. He was an intelligence officer who was assigned to Lubang Island in the Philippines with the orders to do all he could to hamper Allied attacks on the island. His instructions were specific that under no circumstances was he to surrender! When the Allies overtook the island, unlike most of the rest who did surrender, he took to the hills with three others in his command.

They continued to carry out occasional raids on the Philippine police as they had opportunity. A number of times they came upon leaflets telling them that the war had ended, but they dismissed them as Allied propaganda, so they continued on. Over the years one walked away from the rest and surrendered, and two were killed in gunfire. Only Onada was left, but he continued on for quite awhile.

Onoda (second left) walking from the jungle where he had hidden since World War 2.

It wasn’t until 1974, that another Japanese man went looking for him and found him. The two became friends, but still Onada would not surrender. He would only do so if his commanding officer ordered him. Through his friend the Japanese government found that commanding officer, who met Onada and handed him his orders to cease fighting and surrender.

Have we as the church fallen out of communication with our commander, that like Onada we are fighting for things that don’t matter? Though there is a war with Satan (Eph. 6:10-12), have the battle lines shifted so we are shooting civilians way behind the front? Do we throw spiritual bombs at Catholics? Are we still targeting the fundamentalist-modernist controversy with the liberal denominations? Are we up in arms, when a young woman is dressed immodestly? These are still important issues that need to be addressed. However the biggest battle that we need to concentrate on is the secular wars; they’re slowly eating away at not only our moral base, but also our freedom to practice our faith. Some are called to fight the war in the public arena, but where the everyday person in the church needs to battle is for individuals to come to know the Lord. So we should reach out to people around us, love and care for them, and share the good news of the gospel with them. Like in any war the one with the most territory wins. The embattled¬†territory is people’s lives!

Some are hidden away like Onada, but all it takes is for someone to go look for him and become his friend, and get in touch with the commanding officer for him, so he can surrender to Him.