When my dad was in his 30’s God called him to be a preacher. I have heard him tell the story of seeking counsel from his older brother James who had already been in the ministry for many years. James challenged my father to read and listen to sermons every week – to put himself under preaching.
As I have thought on that advice it has become apparent to me that this was not just a good way to learn to “sermonize.” It was a way to deepen the spiritual life of a young servant of the Lord. Only as we grow can we bear fruit. If we want the Lord to lengthen the reach of our preaching then we must give more attention to the depth of our own spiritual experience.
I was just a boy when I began preaching. My memory is still fresh of sitting on the front row, service after service, listening to mature men preach the Word, taking veracious notes, and soaking up everything I could. At some point it is easy to stop viewing yourself as the student and begin to think of yourself as the teacher. This is death! Not one of us has arrived and none of us ever graduate from our Lord’s classroom.
One of the open secrets to the blessing of God on the life of D.L. Moody was that he was always as eager to hear others preach the Word as he was himself to preach it. In the conferences that he hosted he was often hesitant to speak himself and instead would sit in the middle seat of the front row with a pencil and notebook, writing down everything he could take in from the ministry of other men. And this was not in his early years – this was as an older preacher!
This week I have the privilege of preaching in two different gatherings of preachers. Now, I love preachers – I am one! But recently I heard someone say that preachers are the hardest people to whom they preach. Perhaps that is true because we tend to listen differently than the average hearer. Or perhaps it is because we think we “know that” already.
Regardless, I can tell you from personal experience that preachers need preaching too! At least this preacher does. I enjoy being in these meetings, not just to preach, but to have someone minister the Word of God to me.
Remember that Bible preaching is to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Timothy 2:2). Dear preacher, we need reproved, rebuked, and exhorted just like every Christian does! Yes, preachers need preaching too.
So how should preachers listen to preaching?
- Listen to preaching regularly. God chose preaching to accomplish much in the hearts of both unbelievers and believers (1 Corinthians 1:21). While we should learn to feed each day on the Word of God ourselves, we know that the Lord designed it that preaching would also “feed the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2). The problem with preachers is that we are usually doing the preaching! Remember that even the shepherd is a sheep. We all need our souls fed regularly.
- Listen to preaching humbly. It is easy for preachers to listen to sermons as critics. We do not do so consciously, but very quickly we begin to dissect the homiletical form of the sermon or the delivery of the messenger. This is a trap of the Devil. When we start looking at mechanics alone and stop short of God’s Word to us we have missed the most important thing! Guard against analyzing the messenger. Remember he is just a voice (John 1:23). The important thing is the Word – listen to hear the Voice of God.
- Listen to preaching prayerfully. One of the best ways to ensure that you are ready to receive what God wants to say and are willing to obey is to enter into the message in a spirit of prayer. The passage may not be new to you, but ask the Holy Spirit to make it fresh. Pray sincerely for the preacher and pray expectantly for yourself. To be sure, we reap what we sow – remember that you want others to pray for you! But more personally, pray that God will give you what you need, not as a preacher first, but as a Christian. “Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9).
In today’s technology age we have multiplied means of listening to the preaching of God’s Word. I regularly listen to sermons as I travel and hope that both my life and preaching is enriched by it. I am asked from time to time who I enjoy listening to. More important than the personalities, is the type of preaching. Look beyond style to substance. Choose men and messages that help open the Word of God and the God of the Word afresh to you.
For more than two decades I had the privilege of serving in a church and college where the Word of God was faithfully preached and taught. You take a lot for granted until you don’t have it! When I first went into evangelism I was reminded how much Bible preaching I had enjoyed every week. Now I had to listen to myself! It did not take long for me to recognize that I had to intentionally place myself under the preaching of God’s Word, just as in the early days, if I wanted to continue to grow and stay fresh.
Preachers need preaching too!