PREACHING AND THOSE WHO LISTEN TO IT
British preacher and theologian J. I. Packer has written, “We complain today that ministers do not know how to preach; but is it not equally true that our congregations do not know how to hear.” I am convinced that Packer is right on both points. Tomorrow, all across America, far too many pulpits will be occupied by “preachers” who apparently don’t know how to preach. At the same time, far too many pews will be occupied by people who don’t know how to hear the good biblical preaching that will be preached from their pulpits. This situation is too common; even in churches self-identified as “Bible-believing,” “conservative,” “traditional,” “fundamental,” “old fashioned,” etc., etc.
A pastor said that one day, early in his ministry, he was complaining to an old preacher-acquaintance that, “people don’t want to hear preaching.” He said that his friend's honest response hurt him a little bit, but helped him much more than it hurt him: “No,” said the old preacher, “it’s not true that people don't want to hear preaching. The problem is that people don't want to hear your preaching.” I suspect that this explains why some people in some churches don’t seem to want to hear preaching.
But just as surely as there’s room for improvement in the preaching that goes on in some pulpits, there’s also plenty of room for improvement in terms of the hearing (or lack thereof) that goes on in some pews. Jesus not only said, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24), He also said, “Take heed how ye hear” (Luke 8:18). Go to church tomorrow determined to be a good listener to the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. One of our hymns says:
Open my ears, that I may hear Voices of truth Thou sendest clear; And while the wave notes fall on my ear, Everything false will disappear.
Ask God to help you listen attentively, appreciatively listener and with an ear eager to learn where and how you can apply what you hear to your life. It’s often said, that “The world is dying for want of good preaching.” But perhaps, the famous Baptist missionary G. D. Boardman was right when he said, “The world is dying for want, not of good preaching, but of good hearing.