Over the last few years, I have been blessed to discover biblically solid materials being published by ministries outside of the United States. Matthias Media, Day One and The Good Book Company (for example) have all recently opened up offices stateside. When searching for resources, I have increasingly looked to these publishers first. Of course, we Americans must be able to put up with the British spellings and the occasion odd phrase (“listening is like eating a very heavy pudding with nothing to cut through the stodge”).
From The Good Book Company comes a wonderful booklet (30 pages), Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons. The booklet itself (measuring about 8.5 x 6 inches) is colorful. The artwork is entertaining and the layout is engaging. However, the content is better yet. Christopher Ash, director of the Cornhill Training Course in London, England, has done congregations and preachers a great service. I wish everyone who listens to me preach would read this booklet (I am making them available for free to my listeners).
The author describes “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” These include: expect God to speak, admit God knows better than you, check if the preacher says what the passage says, hear the sermon in church, be there week by week, do what the Bible says, do what the Bible says today—and rejoice!
Each of the seven sections begins by introducing us to two listeners and their approach to listening and explains why one profits from the sermon and why the other doesn’t. Each section concludes with practical steps to take. In between Ash provides very good advice on listening. The advice is also helpful for the preacher to remember as he prepares his sermon.
Ash’s counsel is solidly based on the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. “However, when the Bible is faithfully opened up, we are to listen to the preacher’s voice as the voice of God Himself. The preacher stands in the great tradition of prophets and apostles who spoke the word of God” (p.4). He makes it clear that the preacher’s authority is borrowed and it is only as the preacher sticks to the truth of the text that he should be taken seriously. He advises the listeners to constantly ask themselves “where did the preacher get that from?” (p.10). He explains insightfully why sermons should be listened to in person at church. He cautions against a steady diet of “celebrity preachers” (p.18).
The booklet concludes with advice on how to listen even to bad sermons as well as suggestions for encouraging good preaching. Both preacher and listener will benefit from this booklet.