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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Church Resurrection Sunday

 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27                                                                                                                             

I recently came across a book called Autopsy of a Deceased Church. The title gives you the shivers, doesn’t it? It brings to mind pictures from one of the many forensic shows on these days. A naked cadaver is brightly lit in the middle of a cold examining room. The coroner makes a huge incision down the middle of his chest. He looks at pieces of it under the microscope. Meanwhile, family members are in a waiting room not far away grieving the loss of their loved one.

An autopsy is a sad picture for a church as well: a church consultant sitting in a café casually talking with the last remaining church members one after the other. “So what were the last few years like at… what was the name of your church again?” Each one has a far away look in their eyes as they reflect on the many years that lead to its demise.

  • “I think we forgot why we existed. We didn’t talk much about the Great Commission,” one says.
  • “All I remember is fights over some decision or another the elders made,” another reflects.
  • “We talked a lot but only prayed a little.”
  • “It became all about making the few of us still going, happy. It was all about ‘what I want in a church.’ “

Well, let’s get that image out of our head, and replace it with another… Church Resurrection Sunday. A church on the brink suddenly turns around. God is at work.

As people come in to the service, they are happy to see each other, they smile and exchange hugs. “We may be few but at least we have each other,” they say.

In the prayer and sharing time, one person stands up and says, “Please pray for my co-worker, I explained some of the gospel to him and I would love to see him come to the Lord.” A few others make similar requests.

Then another rises to their feet. “I would like to ask for forgiveness for the way I have behaved the last few years,” and after a bit more explanation of their sin of gossip, they close, “Will you forgive me?” A number of people say “yes” right out loud.

“After many years of ignoring each other,” another jumps in, “my sister in the Lord and I have reconciled and put all our differences behind us.” People begin to clap.

Then they go to prayer and it’s not just the pastor who prays; many contribute by praying aloud. He has to shorten his message because the prayer time goes so long, but he doesn’t mind at all.

The church is living out what it is called to be and it’s resurrected from what looked like certain death.

Now that’s a better picture, isn’t it?