Whether you’ve been attending church and listening to sermons for years and years, or you only recently started attending church, there will always be times when simply paying attention – much less actually getting something from the preaching – is just a challenge. It happens to everyone…and can even be expected. We have a real enemy who wants to distract us and certainly wants us to leave a preaching service totally unchanged or challenged by God’s word. Usually, he starts early – before you even arrive at church. It takes a determined effort to stay focused and to have our hearts prepared for the message. The effort is more than worth it!
Here are three suggestions I think can help anyone – veteran or new church member – get the most from a sermon:
ONE – Prepare your heart before you even get to church. For years, I was faithful to my devotion
time six days out of seven. I never seemed to make the time on Sundays. I definitely was in a stage of life (getting my littles ready) where it was more difficult to set the time apart but, truthfully, I just did not appreciate the need on Sundays. I thought being in God’s word corporately, at church, was enough. But time spent alone with God is needed every day. Getting in God’s word and spending time in prayer before I go to church helps prepare my spirit to receive something fresh from the Sunday morning message.
TWO – Participate in the worship service. Sing – even if you are not a singer. Think about the words rather than singing mindlessly. The hymns. The choruses. The special music. They are all designed to continue the preparing of our hearts to receive the Word.
THREE – Take notes during the preaching. I have had friends tell me they just can’t take notes (because it is distracting, etc.) however, those same friends cannot remember what the sermon was about three days later. Notes do not need to be fancy, long and all-inclusive, or even written in a journal. But simply writing down the key thoughts helps to keep you focused and listening for those points. Taking notes allows you to be an active participant – keeping your mind engaged.
No doubt, everyone has a different idea what to do with all those sermon notes. Many people keep them all. Few actually ever look at them again. I like to read through my notes later in the week and write down one or two particular points that challenged me, encouraged me or, for some other reason, I really want to remember. The goal is not to, one day, be able to recite the entire sermon but to gain wisdom – and to recall that nugget of truth. You might write your nugget in a notebook, on an index card or put it in your phone but make it available throughout the week.
Throughout the week, reflect on what you learned. On how you were challenged and on anything the Holy Spirit might have led you to do. Let a song from Sunday morning repeat in your head all week. It will help bring the sermon thoughts to mind. And, instead of having merely attended church on Sunday, the time spent there will continue to impact you all week. That is truly benefitting from a sermon.