To finish off this series on attention, there is one more thing we need to consider. We’ve looked at the importance of having the listener’s attention if you want them to hear your message. We’ve considered appropriate ways to pursue attention for the message, and some inappropriate ways to undermine your preaching while pursuing attention. But is it really just about you and the listeners? Or are there other forces at work?
In one sense it doesn’t matter what else is going on, you need to take responsibility for preaching well in order to engage the listeners effectively. At the same time, it would be naive to ignore some of these factors:
1. Life Circumstances of Listeners. You probably don’t know a fraction of what is going on in their lives. Have they been struggling to sleep? Do they have a medical condition that is weighing on them, or even influencing their focus without them even knowing it? Are they in the midst of great inner turmoil? Hopefully the message will engage and offer the hope of Christ in the worst of circumstances. But it is feasible that you may struggle to grab attention, no matter what.
2. Environmental Factors. Seating designed by a someone shaped like a cardboard box. A distracting draft of cold air. Oppressive and tiring heat. A wasp. A stationary police siren outside. A light aircraft crashing into the church building. An earthquake. Some things are hard to overcome.
3. Spiritual Warfare. Have you ever noticed that often at a very crucial point in a message, right when the crux of the gospel is going to be declared, a baby will start to cry, a fight will break out, a siren will drive past, etc.? Sometimes we need to be reminded that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but unseen forces. We don’t need to dwell on them, but recognize that the enemy knows a distracted listener is not really a listener at all.