How to Listen to a Sermon

  (This post is an edited repost from May, 2008)

Christopher Love (d. 1651), a Welsh Presbyterian and pastor of a church in London, manuscripted his sermons sermons on mortification and published them in The Mortified Christian (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998). The whole book is worth reading, but the last section is what I’ll note for now. The chapter is called “The Right Hearing of Sermons.” Here are seven practical directions for listening to the preaching of the gospel (I’ve edited them for length).

1) Take heed that you hear the Word of God preparedly. As the preacher must take care to find acceptable words, so the people should labor to bring acceptable affections to the work – when we come to the service of God we should hear with all attention and pray with affection.

2) Hear the Word attentively, as those did in Acts 8.6. Those who hear the Word with gazing eyes, wandering thoughts, and sleepy bodies cannot hear it attentively, but are to be reproved.

3) Hear the Word of God retentively. Labor to keep in your memory what you hear, that you may put it into practice for your life. Hearing is for practice’s sake. This also has to do with treasuring the Word, so it will have a continual impression upon your hearts.

4) Hear the Word understandingly. Christ called the multitude and bade them hear and understand. This is what the Bereans did.

5) Hear the Word applicatively. If a patient has never such excellent counsel given him, never so powerful a medicine prescribed, if he does not apply it, it will do him no more good than if he had never known it.

6) Hear the Word of God reverentially. Many people represent God to themselves in such familiar notions that they ultimately breed a contempt of God which we ought not to have. We must demean ourselves with a humble reverence in His presence.

7) Hear the Word of God obediently. Come…ready, prepared, and disposed to stoop and submit to all the instructions, corrections, and reproofs of the Word of God, like those spoken of in Acts 10.33.

All of the advice Love gave assumed that we sit “under” the preaching of the Word, not over it.  The congregation does not rule the preached word; the word “rules” them.   So we come to hear a sermon ready to hear God’s word read and explained – we pray for ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to believe what God speaks in and through his word read and preached.  

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

2 thoughts on “How to Listen to a Sermon”

  1. Good advice I think, Shane – thanks for posting.

    The only thing I would add is: make sure to be under a genuine gospel preacher, profound in scripture, solid in theology, lovingly pastoral with his flock, passionately in love with Christ and His church, deeply pious, courageous, called, properly ordained, well-trained, and well-seasoned.

    Pastors like that are not very common but well worth finding. They don’t develop overnight, rather usually over decades.

    My mother recently met the divine, heavenly Pastor whom all faithful but merely human pastors model (imperfectly) in both character and content.



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