It’s pretty mind-blowing for me when I think of how many phenomenal, right-on sermons I’ve heard in my life. Having grown up in the church I have the distinct advantage of having heard well over 2,000 sermons in my life so far. And while there were plenty of duds (don’t get me started!), there have also been plenty of messages that touched my heart and caused in me a desire to want to change. That’s what is supposed to happen when God’s Word is preached, right? It’s supposed to make us want to change the way we look at God and how much more we should love and appreciate him, change how we love others, or change how we behave in general.
You’ve been there, too, right? You know what it’s like to sit in a sermon and say in your mind, “Wow, this is really good. I needed this.” And we have this idea that just by hearing it we’re going to be changed forever and never go back to how it was before that morning or night, before we heard and our hearts were touched. And maybe in some ways that’s been the case. Maybe you can trace back to a time when some words that you heard in a church service radically changed your life and you still remember them, but that would be the unusual exception, wouldn’t it?
See, what often happens to us, though we hate to admit it, is that we hear a message that stirs our hearts but it stays in our minds only about as long as the 15-45 minute message itself lasts. We go out into the rest of our day or week and have quickly forgotten what we’d learned and go back to life as normal with maybe just the slightest ounce of change showing up. You can hear a riveting message on loving others but then are fighting with your parents hours later. You can hear a heart-tugging message on really worshipping God with your life and then don’t talk to Him the entire week afterwards. It’s like there is separation that exists sometimes between the words we hear in church and our state of mind and actions once we’re outside of it.
I’m not even talking about being a hypocrite here as much as I am talking about the need to make the most of chances to learn and grow by God’s word. If you don’t want the roller coaster version of following Christ then you need to be wise about fully engaging during a service so that it can impact your life from there on out. (I know that I spend countless hours each week working to make messages that are worth hearing and worth applying to our lives with the hope that it does just that.)
So here are some simple tips to ending the separation of church and state of mind:
- Take notes [You are far more likely to remember what you write down — even if you never reread it — than if you just listen.]
- Replay the passage [Whether later that day or in the following day or two, read the passage that was preached and let it speak to you again.]
- Connect personally with the message [Actually write down the answer to this question: What did God say to me through this message? And see how much that helps put it into action!]
- Wrestle with the message [Think about how your life currently measures up to what you’ve heard as well as what truths that you heard that you may want to study further.] And last, but certainly not least…
- Share the thought [Whether you choose to talk about it with a friend or family member who is a Christ-follower or not, talking about the message not only helps astronomically with reminding you of what you’ve heard and been impacted by, but it also gives them the chance to hear it too!]
So be the amazing people who choose not just to fill up seats or fill up time slots, but really allow yourself to get filled up on the Word of God when you walk into church. Make it worth your time and worth the time of the people who are trying to teach you. Go be great hearers of the Word so that you can be great doers of the Word!