Listening to a Sermon as a Spiritual Discipline

Craig Brian Larson has written an interesting article on sermons and spiritual disciplines. Here are some highlights:

  • Read books on spiritual formation and you will be hard pressed to find anyone who lists listening to the preaching of God's Word as a first-order spiritual discipline.
  • Contrast this with the important description of the early church's spiritual disciplines in Acts 2:42–47....In addition, the importance that the apostles placed on preaching (in passages like Acts 6:1–4; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:17; 2 Tim 4:1–3) suggests that listening to preaching was a first-order spiritual discipline. Certainly the leaders of the Reformation felt that way...
  • Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots...done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.
  • This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time.
  • ...a uniquely embodied, physical act. It literally puts us into the habit of having "ears that hear." 
  • Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological truths that are universally true, and apply those truths in a particular time and place to particular people in a particular church—all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the Church's study that average Christians do not own. 
  • is doable by the masses.
  • ...people don't naturally know how to listen to a sermon. They listen for the wrong reasons: to be entertained (Mark 6:20), to justify their wrong actions (2 Timothy 4:3), or to earn God's favor (John 5:39). They seek knowledge rather than transformation (Romans 12:1–2; 1 Corinthians 8:1–2). They listen without paying careful attention (Mark 4:23–25). They listen without prayer (James 1:5). They listen without an awareness of the deceitfulness (James 1:22) and hardness of their own hearts (Mark 8:1–21), or with an attitude of selective obedience (Matthew 23:23–24). They are not regularly warned of the dangers of a rebellious attitude (Hebrews 3:7–16) and unresponsive hearing (James 1:21–25).
  • ...little attention has been paid to training preachers to train Christians to listen properly to a sermon.
  • Transformation through preaching depends 100 percent on God, 100 percent on the preacher, and 100 percent on the effort of the listener.