What is the most important part of our worship gatherings when we show up to church?
There is no doubt that prayer is vital. Jesus made that point clear when He said: “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer…” (Matthew 21:13).
There is no doubt that singing plays a very important part. After all, being filled with the Holy Spirit will evidence itself in a heart that delights to sing the praises of God (Ephesians 5:18-19).
Giving of our tithes and offerings is vital (1 Corinthians 16:2). Encouraging each other to progress in love and good works is vital (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is so much that should be a part of our weekly worship gatherings.
But, if there is something that rises above the rest, it is the proclamation of the Word. It is the time when the “man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) stands up to “devote (himself) to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The clear command given to the primary worship leader of the public gatherings is to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
As if there were any lack of clarity as to the primacy of preaching, we read in Acts 6:4 where the apostles/pastors of the first church plainly stated what their primary duty was: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
It is also significant that 3 of the New Testament letters were written to pastors (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). Further, Revelation 2-3 is directed to the pastors of the seven churches of Asia. It is clear that God’s Word is written to pastors and to churches who have pastors who are called to proclaim God’s Word to their congregation.
In our contemporary culture, we talk about the primacy of the worship in music and tend to devalue the preached Word. While there are a multitude of reasons for why this is the case, let’s look at one problem with this view …
The lyrics of our songs tend to invite us into a wonderful experience of worshiping our Lord. Since music touches our very soul, this can be an overwhelmingly powerful and helpful experience. Yet, the lyrics of most of our songs only lead us in the positive aspects of worship and rarely confront our sinfulness and call us to repentance.
Our music, while it is a vital part of worship, is an expression of a heart that desires to know and love our God more. But, it is the preached Word that informs us of how we can experience our God more fully by dealing with the issues that are rarely (or never) addressed in our songs.
So, as we become convinced of the primacy of preaching, the question arises: “How can I get the most out of the preaching I expose myself to?”
Practical Steps to Getting the Most Out of a Sermon
- Prepare your heart beforehand.
- Develop an appetite for the Word by reading it regularly, each day.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Pray, expecting that God wants to speak with you through the preached Word.
- Listen to Christian music before heading off to worship.
- Consider reading God’s Word in your seat before the service begins.
- Take your Bible and keep it open.
- Using an app on a mobile device may provide opportunities to get distracted. While we provide a QR code for online sermon notes at the church I pastor, I rarely ever use a mobile device when listening to a sermon.
- An open Bible allows you to read along while also familiarizing yourself with the context of the verse(s) the preacher is talking about.
- If the pastor’s sermons do not give you a reason to keep your Bible open throughout the entirety of the sermon week-after-week, then find another pastor/church. If he isn’t spending his time telling you what God has said in His Word, then the “preacher” is wasting your time.
- Take notes.
- As the sermon progresses, you may come across a verse(s) that will have a very special meaning to you. You might consider underlining that verse in your Bible. Maybe, put a note in the margin of your Bible or record it in your sermon notes.
- Consider recording at least the main outline of the sermon in separate sermon notes. But, honestly, an outline probably won’t inspire you to make the adjustments God wants you to make. So, write down in your sermon notes a verse that meant something and record why it was special. Write down special quotes. Maybe, the Holy Spirit will give you a thought while the pastor is preaching – write it down!
- As the sermon comes to a close (or maybe it happens before the conclusion), write at the bottom of the page what adjustments you believe God is calling you to make as a result of being exposed to His Word. Listening to a sermon isn’t of much value unless we do something with what we’ve heard.
- Review your notes at a later time.
- It can be incredibly beneficial to talk about the sermon with your family or friends over lunch while it is still fresh on your mind. Talk about what meant the most to you. Talk about what may not have made sense or what you will investigate further.
- Keep your notes in your Bible for up to a week and see if, after the sermon, God continues to speak into your life about something He revealed to you. Maybe God wants to point out a change in the way you think. Maybe he wants you to change a behavior. Just continue to be open to what God desires to say to you regarding adjustments to make in your life.
Almost certainly, there are plenty of other things that we can do to get the most out of a sermon. But, I hope that this post has provided you with at least a few ideas of what you can do to make your next experience even more beneficial.