Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
One of the important things learned while at seminary was homiletics/preaching – that it is an art and science, it requires diligence and discipline, it must be framed by prayer and study.
Yet how many of us learned much, if anything, about how to hear a sermon? It does consist of a different discipline. Besides actually preaching, how have you helped God’s people to know how to hear/listen to sermons? I would dare say that hearing/listening to sermons requires some of the same graces and disciplines required for preaching those sermons.
Here is a word from Charles Simeon about “directions how to hear sermons.” He frames this around Jesus’ words to “take care then how you hear” (Lk. 8:18). The immediate context is not a sermon, but he takes Jesus’ exhortation about hearing and applies it to the sermon.
As we read these documents and ponder how this might be used to aid God’s people in hearing sermons, our sermons, let’s remember two things.
First, we must remember that the first one to hear the words of the sermon is I! Keep Calvin’s words in mind here. He said that if the pastor who is preaching that sermon has not first wrestled with the application of those truths in his own life, it would be better for him to trip on his way up to preach that sermon and break his neck, than for him to preach that sermon without first having applied it to his life.
Second, we will be encouraging them to be Bereans (Acts 17:11), which means they will listening to our sermons through the lens and with the grid of the Bible. When we talk about Scripture and the sermon, its meaning and application, an important reminder is that there is no need to get defensive when questioned. We are all after the truth of God’s Word, and I as the preacher do not have the corner on that, and neither is my sermon inspired and inerrant. The Word of God is true and truth, and it is inspired and inerrant.
Here are Simeon’s words:
'Take heed therefore how ye hear' (Luke 8:18)
The office of a Christian minister is arduous. He is to explain and enforce every part of man's duty: he is to search out and censure every sin. After all his labours he will see but little fruit. However faithfully he preach, there are but few who will hear aright. This our Lord had just declared in the parable of the sower. He then enforced His declaration with this most important caution.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR LORD'S CAUTION
Our Lord elsewhere cautions His people to take heed what they hear; nor can any thing be more necessary than to be on our guard against error. But the caution how we hear was also necessary for the following reasons.
1. Because many hear in an unbecoming manner.
a. The generality are careless hearers.
b. Many are critical hearers.
c. Many also are captious hearers.
2. Because God Himself speaks to us by the preacher.
3. Because every discourse increases either our salvation or condemnation.
II. OBEYING OUR LORD'S CAUTION
An humble mind will naturally receive instruction in a proper manner.
1. We should hear with candour.
2. We should hear with a desire to profit.
3. We should hear with humble dependence on God's Spirit.
Let us then offer in sincerity that petition in the Litany. 'That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.'