When I was young in the Lord — without being told that I should — I listened eagerly to preachers as they picked up Scripture. It was rarely because I knew the speaker and who they really were as people, but rather it was because I anticipated that He was about to speak to me. I learned quickly that whenever His Word was being preached and taught, even if it was poorly or inaccurately accomplished, that my attention to the Word (and my openness to His speaking to me personally) was almost always rewarded.
My role as a listener was not to evaluate the quality of the speaker, but I was there to hear a Word from the Lord. Armed with an open Bible and eager expectation, I was making my heart available to Him.
I’m not saying that the character and study habits of the speaker are irrelevant. Through their personal disciplines and efforts to grow in Christ, preachers and teachers have much to contribute to the process of building up His people. “Sin in the camp” and a lack of personal integrity can certainly diminish the truth and darken the hearts of the hearers. Teaching God’s Word has wonderful and terrifying consequences (e.g 1 Thessalonians 1:5, James 3:1).
But what makes a good listener? Do I not have a responsibility to come ready to hear a Word from God? Will He not honor the seeking heart? Doesn’t He fill the hungry and thirsty heart?
In my walk, I have to remind myself to adopt a posture of active listening to what someone is saying. Without focusing on the speaker alone, I am listening to what is being said and simultaneously seeking to understand what my Father is saying to me through this message. I am reading along in the text in my own Bible, often thinking of other Bible passages that relate to what is being said. I am noting insights and statements that “light up” the text and/or my own circumstances in that moment. I worry less about the speaker’s outline and pay closer attention to the overall content and message as He applies it to my heart. It is not vital that I be able to recall the speaker’s message verbatim at some future date, but it is absolutely vital that I am ready to respond to the Author of the scripture as He speaks to me! Combined with a daily prayer life and walk, these moments have often become answers to prayers for direction, transformation, understanding, and encouragement (2 Tim 3:16).
So when I walk into a congregation gathering this morning, I do so with a very real sense of expectancy — God has something to say to me through this very special medium of preaching and teaching — and I can hardly wait!