Help Your Preacher Preach Better #3 (5 Strategies to “Getting” the Sermon)

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Bible, church, consumerism, homiletics, missional, preaching

A while ago, I began a conversation about how congregant could help their preacher preach better. You can read about those here and here. Today I’d like to turn our attention to how congregations can get the most out of a sermon.

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A sermon, like any form of communication, can go in one ear and out the other. Worse still, a sermon can find hospitality in the head and hostility in the heart. Many of us struggle with the weekly homily, but we don’t want to. We struggle with how to apply it, how to remember it, how to live it out, and make sense of it in a world wherein we hear so many messages all the time. So I thought I’d offer 5 Strategies to “Getting” the Sermon.

1. Dwell In The Word. If Sunday morning is the first time you’ve read the sermon text, much of what the preacher says will be lost on you. It’s cold. You haven’t had time to allow the scriptures to seep into your skin. At Redwood Church, we provide the entire congregation the sermon text(s) and a brief synopsis of the sermon every Thursday via e-mail. This allows the willing to read the text(s), get a feel for where the sermon is headed and allows God to work the mystery of His presence in a hearer’s heart before Sunday. Peeking at the text ahead of time gets you back into story – it’s probably been a long time since you’ve read about Judah and Tamar, my subject for this week – refresh your memory.

2. Take Your Own Notes. Our congregation provides notes for every one in attendance. These are largely useless! Why? Because these notes are limited to what I think is most important in the text and are typically subject heading. Don’t check your brains at the narthex. Surprise, surprise; God may have something distinct in mind for you. Each scripture passage is deep, rich and meaningful, only so much can be covered in 20-minutes, um, I mean 40 minutes. 🙂

3. Bring Your Own Bible. We provide Bible for new Christians and visitors, but for old hands, there’s nothing as good as thumbing through your Bible, making notes in it, highlighting meaningful texts and moving insights. 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 inside the text and it serves me for the rest of my life. Not only that, by using my own Bible – and not being dependent on the screen – I learn the text and memorize where things are. 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 download my sermons and listen to them as many times as they’d like. (This isn’t just about my sermons. I, too, listen to sermons each week from other pastors. I don’t just listen once. There’s too much in any given homily to get it all the first time.) If you do this, sooner or later you’ll get a feel for your preacher; how they walk through a text; what’s important to them, etc….This will help you glean more.

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 with a fuller treatment of the issues, your minister 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 them!

Well, there you have it, 5 quick hitters to help you get more out of the “kerygmatic event.” Hope that helps.

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