Eyes May Be Looking, But Are Ears Listening?

Who’s responsible for the attentiveness of listeners?  Is it the listeners?  After all, they choose to come to church, they should be able to focus on what is happening.  Or is it the sound technician?  That individual plays a huge role in removing certain distractions, but they cannot engineer attentiveness.  What about life circumstances of the listeners?  Surely God could make it so there was nothing going on in their lives in the days leading up to a Sunday?  Of course we can point to the important role of sound technicians and the parents of crying children, but these can only remove distractions.  Attentiveness is almost entirely up to the preacher.

Howard Hendricks, prof at Dallas Seminary, was devoted to the fact that the attention of his students was his responsibility.  He would go to whatever lengths he could to arrest and maintain the attention of those in his class.  He had ways of making you listen!  Perhaps we should be the same?  If so, this has several implications:

We must plan a message for attention – as well as planning a message that is biblical and clear, we must also endeavor to be interesting and relevant throughout.  

We must be aware of our listeners – preaching is a form of two-way communication.  Usually only one party ever speaks, us, but there is still continual feedback through body language, facial expression and so on.  We must be careful never to get into a mode that is all about us.

We must be responsive to the situation – if there is an interruption or distraction, consider how best to overcome it. Sometimes ignoring it is the best or most sensitive approach, but often not.  If others are aware of it but think you’re not, that is distracting.

Are they listening?  That’s up to you.

5 thoughts on “Eyes May Be Looking, But Are Ears Listening?

  1. The author of Hebrews slammed the church for being “dull of hearing.” But he was willing to do what it took to stir them up again.

    How about electric shock pews?!

  2. For the past few years I have become more of a listener than a preacher. I don’t preach every weekend. I have to invest in other areas of preaching to keep myself sharp. One of the benefits of not preaching regularly is becoming an observer and a listener. I notice that it’ hard to get people to listen without them checking out along the way. I am convinced getting their attention and keeping it until the end is the most important part of delivery. Just watch the folks when you’re not preaching.

  3. Yes! Yes! Yes! There is very little learning unless a person is engaged with the material and presentation. One of my favorite Howard Hendricks quotes is

    “If you are going to bore people, don’t bore them with the Gospel. Bore them with calculus, bore them with earth science, bore them with world history. But it is a sin to bore them with the Gospel.”

  4. I’m torn. When I think of the stories of revival that I’ve heard, more than once God used preachers who were known for dull (but sound) preaching! LOL! and I think of Amy Carmichael (sp?) who said that we don’t need any gimmicks~the Word of God is convicting all on its own!

    I DO think we need more Bible from the pulpit and less storytelling…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  5. Love this Blog!!!!! Where have you been for the last few years!

    I read a quote a while back that said, “Teaching doesn’t take place until learning takes place”. That changed my way of communicating. Since I have made application the goal of my messages, (along with my biblical teachings), my listeners have made more decisions.

    chip.

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