Who can stand boring preaching? It wastes a good half-hour, sometimes more. Take these steps, and you’ll never have to suffer through another boring sermon.
Open Your Ears
Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9). If you plug your ears as soon as things get personal, you’ll quite likely spend the sermon in muffled silence. God intends sermons to improve our walk, and often that means correction (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Pharisees missed out on God’s greatest gift because, “with their ears they scarcely hear” (Matt. 13:15).
Open Your Bible
One of the easiest ways to stop a boring sermon is to bring your Bible. When you are turning to each of the Scriptures the preacher mentions, your fingers do the walking, while your brain does some perking. This simple physical activity keeps you awake and alert.
Following along in the Bible makes you feel more involved, too, as you hunt down and read the passages along with the preacher, rather than just being lectured at. This is true even if the passages are projected on a screen.
After all, participating in preaching is one of the five acts of worship by which we draw closer to God (Acts 20:7). We must participate to get the most from it (Acts 2:42, 1 Tim. 4:13). Opening your Bible includes you in this group effort.
Besides, it’s a good idea to check the preacher. You never know when a sneaky guy is going to try to pull one over on a defenseless congregation, by yanking a quotation out of context, or misapplying it altogether. The Bereans, to their credit, were “examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). One hopes the preacher speaks the truth, but how will we know unless we check?
Open Your Mind
I stopped publishing sermon titles ahead of time, because some would groan, “Oh no, not another sermon on baptism … I’ve heard it a thousand times before!”
Maybe you have, but one of God’s methods for teaching is to repeat the same concept now and then. Peter says “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth” (2 Pet. 1:12-15). Even though the main outline may be the same, the preacher may bring up a new passage you’ve never connected before, or use a new illustration that paints the point in a new and enthusiastic light. Or your situation in life may have changed, and you are now prepared to appreciate the lesson in a new way. Besides, audiences change, and there are surely a few in the crowd who have never heard that old lesson before. What is jaded to one may be eye-opening and soul-saving to another!
Open Your Notebook
If you’ve heard a topic for the umpteenth time, ask yourself, “Have I mastered it so well I can teach it to others?” Jot down some notes this time, and you’ll find yourself suddenly interested again.
Open Your Heart
A dirty or preoccupied heart will make a person roll his eyes at even the greatest orator’s sermon. Jesus warns that it is impossible to worship if we harbor hatred in our hearts (Matt. 5:21-24) or mistreat our spouses (1 Pet. 3:7).
“Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19). It’s awfully hard for a sermon to swim upstream such a river of filth. Cleanse the heart of that trash you watched last night (better yet, don’t watch it at all), put aside preoccupations with material things, the football game, whether or not the approaching storm will hit before the preacher is done, whether or not there will be a long line at the restaurant. Focus for a while.
When you hear a good point, don’t mutter, “I sure hope So-and-So is listening.” Search your own shortcomings. “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
Open Your Mouth
A little “Amen” wakes up a boring sermon. Saying it means, “let it be so!” and indicates your approval, and your intention to apply it (Psalm 106:48). An appropriate “Amen” from the audience never fails to perk up both preacher and listener.
Open Your Arms
Love your brothers who have put forth the effort to preach and teach. “Bear with one another” (Col. 3:13), including the preacher’s occasional lousy sermon. Hank Aaron hit 755 homeruns, but he struck out 1,383 times. Encouragement goes a long way.
Especially praise those just learning to preach. Focus on the good parts, rather than the skewed tie, the imperfect grammar, or the unpolished delivery. —John Guzzetta