If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in preaching, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word.
How can you prepare your heart to get the most out of preaching?
Before the service
1. Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday. Pray that his schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions. Pray that God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word. Pray that God will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience. Pray that God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.
2. If your pastor is preaching a series from a particular book of the Bible, take time during the week to read ahead and meditate on the text. Ask God to speak to your heart before you even hear the message.
3. Prepare for public worship the night before. Turn off the TV, limit social activities, and instead do things that will cultivate your appetite for God’s Word.
4. Ask God to prepare your heart for the preaching of the Word. Repent of any sin God reveals to you, and get rid of the things that are standing in the way of the Word of God in your life.
5. Ask God to give you a sense of anticipation. Come to church asking God to meet with you. Expect to hear from Him and to be different when you leave.
During the service
1. Participate—you need to be there. You’re not going to get a lot out of church if you don’t go.
2. Get to church early enough to spend a few minutes before the service quietly preparing your heart for worship. Pray for God to move—in the pastor, in your heart, in others’ hearts—and surrender your heart to whatever God will say.
3. Don’t be a spectator. Participate fully in every part of the service. That means when it’s time to sing—sing. When it’s time to pray—pray. When it’s time to give—give.
4. While the sermon is being preached, open your Bible and follow along. If your pastor refers to other references, look them up.
5. Listen attentively to the reading and the preaching of the Word. Try to make eye contact with the pastor. Be a “yes face”! Not only does that help the pastor know people are listening and connecting, but it helps you stay alert and focused.
6. Listen humbly to the preaching of the Word. Ask the Lord to make it fresh. If your heart is humble, your focus won’t be on evaluating the message or how it’s delivered; you will let the message evaluate you.
7. Take notes. Jot down things the Lord speaks to you about; highlight points the Spirit applies to your heart and life. Take those notes home, and work through them later.
8. Don’t make your pastor a prisoner of unrealistic expectations. Your pastor doesn’t have to be mesmerizing, entertaining, dramatic, or tell a lot of stories to be effective. You are blessed if he is a man of God who is humble, loves the Word, and opens the Word and seeks to make its meaning plain. The power is in the truth, not the messenger.
After the service
1. Ask God to give you at least one takeaway from the message—a key concept, phrase, or verse that you can review throughout the week. Jot it down so you don’t forget.
2. While it’s still fresh on your mind (before you leave church, on the way home from church, over the meal following the service, etc.), discuss the message with others. Share how God spoke to you.
3. Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer (James 1:22). Apply what you heard Sunday morning to real-life, everyday circumstances and situations throughout the week.