This is part two of a two-part Pastor’s Perspective on how to benefit from preaching. Part one ran in the May 7 issue of The First Epistle.
2. Commit! We live in a day of constant busyness and activity. The kids have sporting events and extracurricular activities that demand our time, often over weekends. Work requires us to be away sometimes. And on top of that we live in an entertainment culture, which doesn’t help. So when we do have a weekend relatively clear of intrusion from work and school and sports, we disappear to the coast or to the condo in our beloved college town. When we are gone, we may well be sure to attend a Presbyterian church. We may never miss Lord’s Day worship. And that is great. But we do miss something important when we are here one week and gone the next two, then here three weeks then gone four, then here two in a row then gone every other week for the next six months. We miss something important to the welfare of our souls. If you view public worship in the congregation of which you are a member as something akin to the offering of a sporting event at your alma mater, you will probably feel some real loyalty to it. You will try to be there when you can. But you will nevertheless see it as the provision of an event at which you may attend or not, provided nothing more important gets in the way. But if you see your own local church as the community to which God has called you to belong, and in which you are called to serve; a family along with whom you are to grow, and God’s primary means in your own life for your spiritual sustenance and personal development, then you will likely value your presence there above almost anything else. Like chemotherapy working on the cancer of our sin, preaching has a cumulative effect. When we are on again and off again in our attendance at our own local church, we minimize the impact the preached word will have.
3. Pray! Pray for the preacher. Pray for the preaching. Pray for clarity of expression, logical order, coherence and faithfulness to the text. Pray for application that strikes at our sin and nurtures our holiness. Pray for the Spirit’s presence and blessing on the ministry, so that none who hear may leave unaffected. Pray for your own attentiveness and readiness to respond in faith and obedience to the word you hear. Pray for the glory of God in the preaching of his word. Pray that preaching, both for the preacher and the hearer, might be worship: that our eyes might be fixed on the beauty of Christ and the majesty of God and the mystery of his Triune being and the wonder of his condescending love and grace and the glory of the cross. Pray for such a view of the gospel that our hearts might find themselves singing well before the hymns are announced. Pray for urgency in the delivery that the unconverted might feel compelled to respond. Pray for conversions. Pray for the backsliders that they might come home. Pray for the weary that they might be garrisoned against the enemy and made ready to head back into battle. Pray for preaching. Pray for preachers. Pray for hearers. Pray for yourself.
There is so much more we might add: make some minimal preparations for church the night before so that you and your family have as unhurried and stress-free a trip to church—on time and still speaking to one another—as possible! Bring your own Bible with you to church and mark it up as things strike you in the preaching. In this way you will underscore the essential unity between your private devotions and your public worship. Talk about the message preached with your spouse or friends or children over lunch. Take notes as you listen to the preaching, but be ready to put down your pen and take in the message God has for you. Go back and listen online once again. Read the manuscripts on the website. Do whatever you can to soak in the Word, like a marinade that will permeate your life. God’s word will change you, and change our church if we begin to profit more from it. And often all that needs is a little preparation!