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.
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.