The preached Word is the apex of Christian worship. Since the Scriptures speak of Christ from beginning to end, the aim of preaching is to display Jesus’ glory in every passage (Luke 24:27). This type of preaching, strengthens and comforts God’s people, conforming them to Christ’s image by the Holy Spirit.
Paul commanded Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:1). Christ ordained that faith should come “from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jesus was primarily a preacher and taught that his kingdom spread through preaching (cf. Mark 1:14-15, 4:1-20). Therefore, God ordains that preaching should occupy a special place in the lives of his people. Through preaching, Christ calls lost sheep to himself and strengthens those already in the pasture (John 18:37).
Preparing and preaching sermons takes diligent, prayerful preparation. Therefore, ministers must devote themselves to studying, explaining and applying the Scriptures. The minister must digest the Word for himself before he feeds it to others. Puritan John Owen said unless the preacher “finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others.”
I once sat under a minister who downloaded his sermon outlines. In other words, he let someone else do the sermon preparation for him. He didn’t take the time to digest the food he expected his congregation to feed upon. It showed that this congregation was poorly fed by their supposed shepherd.
There’s another side to preaching that needs effort and growth: listening. For some, the sermon is “nap time.” However, listening to a sermon is a spiritual exercise and an act of worship. If the minister opens and explains Scripture, then you must receive it as God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Listening well means preparing, receiving, and practicing. Here are some pointers to help you listen to sermons better. First, prepare with prayer. When the service is about to start, quietly take your seat and spend a moment in prayer for yourself, the congregation and the minister. Ask Christ to give you a longing for the pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:1-2). Second, take notes and review what the minister says about the Scripture passage (Acts 17:11). Ask your pastor follow-up questions if there’s something you didn’t understand. This encourages your minister because it lets him know you are listening, and will help him improve his delivery over time. Third, after the sermon, meditate on the Word and hide it in your heart so that you’ll bear fruit from each sermon (Luke 8:15, James 1:25).
Lastly, help your children listen well, too! When they are old enough to understand, don’t allow them to fall asleep on your shoulder. And, review the sermon content around your lunch table after worship.
You understand preaching rightly when you see it as an aspect of worship in which both minister and congregation are active. There are no passive parts of worship. As you worship Christ during the preaching portion of the service, set your heart to rejoice in what he says to you!