02 February 2008

Two Kinds of Sermon Listening

I'm thinking, as my own hyper-critical attitude has been brought to my attention as I listen to sermons (or lectures, but especially sermons), that there seem to be two ways to listen to a sermon: external and internal. Critical (yes, yes, beyond the appropriate doctrinally critical eye one must always have turned on) and incarnational.
I tend to be the former. I want to be the latter (which is how I would want people to listen to me!). External listening analyzes, stands over, deconstructs, gauges, judges, and compares. Internal listening submits, sits under, exercises humility, receives, refuses to self-justify, and heeds no matter how incompetent the preacher or how mature the listener. The external listener stands outside the message; the internal listener gets inside it.

If we were all internal, incarnational listeners, the most famed preachers could learn and be edified by the most struggling seminarian, while the struggling seminarian would not despair in the light of, but receive the encouragement of, the famed preachers. Pride and discouragement would both be dealt with in one blow, and all would sit together under God's Word as little children, irrespective of worldly accolades and theological degrees.


Noah D. said...

Excellent personal observations, Dane-ty. I found myself listening to an exceptional sermon yesterday and reflecting on your blog at the same time, trying to check my own motives and attitude towards the preaching. I am afraid that I have spent most of my life going to church and listening to sermons with a very critical, judgemental spirit rather than letting my heart and mind be moved closer to God in humble submission to the teaching of the Word. I am convinced that, as Clive says, that Pride really is the great sin that affects everything and is the main reason I miss out on so much of what God wants to teach me. It feels so much better to criticize the man preaching and feel superior than to let God use that man to convict me. I was actually, a bit embarrassing I must confess, in some tears by the end of the sermon after realizing how sweet it is to truly hear the Word of God with my heart and mind. The sermon was on being poor in spirit and was delivered by a man of average intellect but great passion who happens to use his hands entirely too much so that it is a distraction for me. But with a less critical spirit, I was profoundly affected by the Word. Thanks for the excellent blog. May we always be the 2nd kind of listener.

Jani Ortlund said...

Dane, This insight was very helpful to me. I want to become a better internal listener. Thanks for this post. Mom