Expositional Listening

This week I finished reading Thabiti Anyabwile’s What Is A Healthy Church Member? The church I’ve been attending since the spring is having a membership class this coming weekend, and in accordance with that, I thought this book would be a good primer. This book is based off the 9Marks series and begins with the statement that a healthy church member is an expositional listener. Anyabwile breaks this down into several subpoints and one of them has resonated with me in particular. Anyabwile suggests we “listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week”. Out of all the points he touched on regarding expositional listening, this one seems the most difficult.

Our weeks get filled up fast with to-do lists and places to be, and even meditating on the day’s Bible reading can seem difficult. Now we’re being asked to act on Sunday’s sermon throughout the week? How often does the Sunday post-church conversation move towards other topics, some worthy, some not. This is quite a challenge. Our pastors have been entrusted with the teaching of God’s Word, knowing that this will strengthen the congregation and help them to be in line with God’s will. What a gift to our pastors (and to the Lord) to know that we have not just listened to the preaching but have allowed it to shape our minds and behavior throughout the week. Why does the Sunday sermon seem to fade at times so quickly? Worse yet, why do those podcasts and ‘celebrity’ sermons that we view or hear linger with us longer?

Anyabwile suggests that we “…choose one or two particular applications from the Scripture and prayerfully put them into practice over the coming week.” A couple of weeks ago, one of the pastors preached on 2 Peter 3 and the type of people we should look like in the light of verses 11-13? How do those verses shape your thoughts and actions throughout the week? More to the point, DO those verses ever shape our thoughts and actions?

I appreciated the reminders in this book and the practical suggestions that were offered. The Sunday sermon is not a performance we attend, it’s something that should drive us back to God and help us to view where our lives match up with His will. What are some ways we can “keep the sermon alive in your spiritual life” throughout the week and beyond, as Anyabwile puts it? What does that look like?

2 thoughts on “Expositional Listening

  1. Barbara

    A notebook and pen during the sermon are helpful, as are other church members who immediately begin to prod for thoughts about application of the sermon by asking related, challenging questions of each other over Sunday lunch to spur it on. I always make sure to note the locations of related Scriptures that are mentioned during the sermon to look up again later as well. Generally in our church the hymns are specifically chosen based on the sermon itself in order to begin to bring it all together, as are the prayers, and since we are currently in a portion of 1 Samuel during a portion of David’s life at which he was on the run from Saul and writing some Psalms, we sing whatever Psalm was written at the point in his history covered by the sermon. All this serves to add depth and to fill one’s mind and heart with it all as a cohesive whole from beginning to end such that the renewed heart desires to continue to be filled on it. It nourishes and fills in a way I have never known before and I am not the only one to say that. It is a cool glass of water in a dry and thirsty land.

  2. Dave Miller

    I agree with the idea of using a notebook and taking notes during the sermon. It’s a good way to review the points that made an impression on you as well as your own thoughts and questions. Pastors enjoy hearing thoughtful questions following their sermon, so use your developing listening skills to encourage your fellow church-member as well as your pastor.

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