How to Listen to a Sermon

listening to a sermonThere are many great classes, articles and books on preaching a sermon, but have you ever heard instruction on how to listen to a sermon?  Consider this four-step approach to listening as you prepare to preach. How can you help your congregation to:

Take it in. Listening to a sermon starts with taking it in. For parishioners who have just argued in the car on the way to the church, this in itself is a challenge. Worship and fellowship time can help prepare attendees to be attentive and open to what God wants to say through the preaching. Minimizing distractions also plays a role in helping attendees focus on the message. Don’t assume that everyone present is ready to listen—think about their lives outside the Worship Center and address the key role of the listener from time to time.

Write it down. Study after study has shown that written notes increase listener retention. Consider providing a fill-in-the-blank outline or blank pages for message notes. Encourage attendees to underline Bible texts and write notes in their Bible margins. If you have a video screen, balance spoon-feeding Scripture and outlines on the screen with audience participation through Bible reading and note-taking. This is extremely important, because…

Think it over. Attendees will primarily process what they have heard in your message outside the Worship Center, on the way home, at lunch, and in the days to follow. Thinking through what they have heard, going over those notes you encouraged them to take and making the message a part of their weekly time in God’s Word will help them connect your words to their life.

Live it out. A sermon should contain both knowledge and application. Living out what the Bible says in obedience to God is a goal of the Sunday message. Some sermons focus on knowledge and background and leave application to the individual to think through, while others are tremendously practical, offering many means to apply the Word to daily life. Application can vary depending on the message, but always make sure it’s there in some measure as a “next step” for those who are listening.


Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.