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Biblical Recorder E Edition - Page 3

SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 BIBLICAL RECORDER News Journal of North Carolina Baptists

Opinion 3

TAR HEEL VOICES

I

admit it. I'm not a good listener. I'm so accustomed to preaching every Sunday that I struggle listening to oth- ers (and my wife will undoubtedly affirm that). So, I'm a bit hesitant to talk about how to listen to a sermon except that I'm really talking to myself as much I am to you, the reader. So, you're welcome to eaves- drop on my own conversation. (1) Pray for the preacher and the sermon long before the service. If I wait until the sermon starts to begin praying (or worse yet, never pray for the preacher and the sermon), I've not adequately prepared myself to listen. (2) Deal with any known sin in your life before the service. I know this step sounds "preachy," but it's nonetheless imperative. Un- confessed sin will block your heart and your ears. My suggestion: before Sunday spend 30 minutes asking God to reveal all your sin to you. Then, just listen. Let the Spirit of God uncover your heart. Con- fess. Repent. Get ready to listen. (3) Have a copy of the Bible with you. It may be a printed copy or an elec-

10 ways to actively listen to a sermon

tronic copy (see point number five be- low), but have a copy you can look at for yourself. Even if your church posts the scripture on a screen, having the Word in front of you can help you listen. If you don't have a copy, ask a leader in the church to provide you a copy. (4) Sit where you can most pay attention. If the windows distract you, don't sit near them. If you know you can hide in the balcony, sit someplace else. And, if sitting with particular people causes you to lose your attention, you may need to sit with someone else. Hearing the Word of God matters. (5) Put your phone away. Get rid of distractions. That's one reason why I'd prefer you have a printed copy of the Bible with you; though I real- ize that's not the world Westerners live in. Facebook, though, can wait. Don't respond to email during the service. If you want to tweet something positive about the sermon, write it down and tweet it later. (6) Just before the service, ask God to help you hear the Word as it applies to you. You may have worries you can't ignore, so ask God to speak to them. Maybe you have company com- ing after church, and you're thinking about them; if so, ask God to teach you from His Word so you're the best host you can be. Don't try to put your thoughts on hold - ask God to speak to them. (7) Listen especially to the Word of God being read. The Word is mighty in itself, apart from the one who proclaims it. Listen to it closely. Let the stories sink in. Even if you think the preaching could be stronger, the Word of God still has power. (8) Take notes. Even an outline will help you remem- ber the points, but you may need to write as much as you can to stay focused. Hear- ing, seeing and writing the points will only reinforce the Word in your life. (9) Listen especially for at least one nugget of truth and application for your life. Go to church expecting God to speak to you through the sermon. Knowing your life's needs, listen for the truth that intersects with you. Even the weakest preaching, if it's Word-based, can speak to your life. (10) Write down one or more action steps you will take in your life after hearing the sermon. I encourage you to do that before you ever leave the worship space. Write it down. Be specific. For example: "I will ask my neighbor's forgiveness." "I will re- pent of x, y and z." "I will plan to pray for my family once a day." Tell somebody about your commit- ment so you are accountable for obedi- ence. Then go be obedient. What steps might you add? (EDITOR'S NOTE - This article first appeared at Chuck Lawless's personal blog, chucklawless.com . Visit the site and sub- scribe to receive new articles. Used by permis- sion.) CHUCK LAWLESS Guest Column Many have tried to tackle the difficult issues facing churches today. We know there is a marked decline in baptisms among Southern Baptist churches, and various theories have inundated our inboxes explaining why, and most of us have read enough articles on it to fill several magazines. I am no expert in all things involving sociology, psychology and the church, but I did have a revela- tion recently while in study. Sin is no more. That's not to say it doesn't exist, but it has left the popular conscience. Consider for a moment all the sins of yesterday that do not exist today. When I was young, we wouldn't fish on Sunday, and we certainly would not consider anything as immoral as a game of cards. Drinking, dancing, drugs and now ho- mosexuality have been eliminated from our nation's conscience. Churches have all but gone silent on any issue resem- bling sin for fear of being labeled intoler- ant, homophobic or narrow-minded. What is our goal? The gospel message should be our call and conviction. Jesus has come to save us from our sins; therein is the problem. Without a concept of sin, there is no need for a message of salva-

R.I.P. sin?

tion. The "Roman Road" begins with the admonition that " all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God " (Romans 3:23). With the demise of sin we have a lack of urgency for salvation. We can't simply return to preaching messages of condemnation. A defensive strategy of calling people to repentance is needed, but an offensive strategy of love is more compelling to those outside our walls. We must find a balance of calling people to accountability while welcom- ing them in the name of Christ. We can never compromise the standards of the faith, even as we call people to consider their shortcomings in comparison to a Holy God. Jesus is still the answer, even if modern man doesn't fully understand the question. My prayer is that we might hold high the name of Jesus amid the chaos of contemporary thinking and pray that people will still see that beacon of hope and meaning in the midst of the spiritual darkness that surrounds us. Perhaps then we can lead people from the depths of their sin to the acceptance of God's forgiveness. Scott Courtney, pastor Mount Vernon Baptist Church Forest City

(Lightstock photo by Maura Griesse)

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