I recently ran across a statement that has stuck with me. It is this: spiritually mature people are easily edified. The statement comes from a piece I read on preaching. What does that mean? There are some people who are almost always blessed by sermons. They do not need to be coaxed into a sermon. The introduction, supporting material, and conclusion are not that important to them. The mannerisms, inflections, and voice command of the preacher are not the make it or break it parts of a sermon for them. They listen closely, but to the right stuff, not the side comments or statement a preacher makes that often trip up and cause many listeners to over analyze or get distracted. The irony is these people often have a great deal of Bible knowledge. They should be the pickiest listeners, but they aren’t. Why?
The easily edified person has a built in hunger, curiosity, and receptivity to the Word of God. By the time the preacher takes the pulpit, they are ready, Bible open, heart unfurled, happy to take in the Word of God – even when it rebukes.
Do you struggle to get into sermons? My sermons? I don’t mean this to be self serving. I really don’t. But, you will like my sermons, and all sermons, a lot better if you consider some suggestions about being an easily edified person.
1. Don’t expect the preacher to be the totality of your spiritual interaction every week.
Sunday services are important, but they should be the high points of an already spiritually alive week for you. That does not mean your week was awesome in every way. It just means you were fighting for faith and seeking God all week. Then, Sundays bolster, affirm, solidify, and remind you that this gospel stuff is all true.
2. Pray for God to give you a love for the Bible.
If you need the preacher to coax you into the Word every week, you are going to always struggle to get into sermons and you are putting a ton of pressure on the preacher. What you need is a built in love for God’s word, so that every time the preacher is faithful to it, regardless of how awesome he was as a communicator, you are going to be blessed. Yes, we worship God and God alone. But, we are called to love his Word. Check out Psalm 119. If you love the Word, you are going to be ready to receive it when preached.
3. Put to death a critical spirit.
Some of us are just critical. We are cynics. We come to books, talks, worship songs, and sermons with a the leader already in a deficit and it is incumbent on them to work their way out. Grace kills a critical spirit. Grace humbles. Grace gives us fresh appetites for truths we have heard a million times and are things we know inside and out. Actually, grace teaches us we don’t really graduate from the basics of the gospel and we don’t know truth inside and out. Ask God to enable you to come with a humble and joyful and trusting spirit.
4. Focus on the content and faithfulness.
Look, I believe in good homiletics (the art of crafting the form, structure, and rhetoric of a sermon). But, a strong intro, supporting material, conclusion, and eloquence are not the most important parts of a sermon. Accuracy, faithfulness, and a Christ-exalting focus in a Biblical sermon are the most important things. If you are easily edified, even a novice or incomplete communicator can deeply move you.
5. Keep short accounts with the preacher if there is a relational issue that is getting in the way.
The people who trust and appreciate the preacher as a man always receive his preaching the most. Conversely, those who have a personal issue, leading to distrust and other negative emotions, almost always have a negative reaction to the preacher, often reading him as a much less competent and trained preacher than he actually is. His words are over analyzed. His motives are deconstructed. His character is assaulted. If you have issues with the preacher and it is getting in the way, go talk with him. I have found people who did not think much of my preaching at first because they did not trust me, yet who got to know me, suddenly found my preaching a balm to their souls. Did I get much better the following week? Probably not. It’s just that their lens changed, from distrust to trust.
Bottom line. If you are hungry for God and trust that Bible is the main way he reveals himself, you are going to be a very content, receptive, and easily moved listener. In fact, you will find you are not just a listener. You become a worshiper during the sermon, praising God in your heart as you hear his promises in Christ retold. When all of life is a gift, not least the Word, you are going to love preaching, your preacher, and all of life will take on a new hue.