How to Listen to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon
Understanding the Times
Derek Thomas


Sermons! They are the stuff of jokes! Like this on, which makes the rounds in different guises: "Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons."

Last Sunday evening I preached on that passage in Acts 17 where the Bereans are said to have "received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things [what they had heard paul preach] were so" (Acts 17:11). They knew how to listen to a sermon!

Which leads me to ask the question, How do you listen to a sermon? Or, perhaps better still, How should I listen to a sermon?

Interestingly, George Whitefield addressed this topic in the mid-seventeenth century in a sermon based on the words of Jesus in Luke 8:18, "Take care how you hear."  I summarize (and, to be honest, update) what Whitfield said in six points:

  1. Come out of a sincere desire to know what God has to say to you. Sermons are not for entertainment. They are to reform our hearts and teach us our duty towards God and men.

  1. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken. Listen as you would to the voice of your president in the Oval Office and remember, the King of Kings demands even more respect! The stuff of sermons concerns eternal matters and not just the things of this world.

  1. Guard you heart against prejudice to the minister. Jesus could do mighty acts in Chorazin and Bethsaida because of their prejudice against him (Matt. 11:21). Even when ministers may urge something they themselves have not been enealed to do well, don't refuse the urging on that account. If what they urge is biblical, receive as though Jesus were the one who spoke.

  1. Guard your heart at over veneration of the minister. It was the Corinthian evil that they began to prefer one preacher to another openly with terrible consequences for the body of Christ. Though one may minister to you more than another, respect both for what God does through them to the body of Christ.

  1. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior spoke at the Last Supper that one of his own would betray him, all the disciples applied to his own heart, saying: "Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 26:22). Beware of that roving eye that says in a sermon, "That was meant for him" or "that was meant for her."

  1. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after sermon. Pray that the minister might be endued with power, boldness to declare the whole counsel of God and not be intimidated by any. Even Paul needed prayer "that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6:19-20).

Whitefield concludes: "If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil's strongholds!"