1. Listen prayerfully.
Pray for your pastor as he prepares and preaches his sermon. Pray that he would be faithful to the text and would also faithfully preach Christ from every portion of Scripture. Pray for yourself, the rest of the congregation, and for visitors—that all people present would be affected by the Word through the Spirit.
2. Listen for understanding, comprehension, and retention.
Listening to a sermon involves much more than “liking” a photo on Instagram or a Facebook status. According to the Apostle James, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24). Do you understand the main points of the passage? Do you notice how the passage points to Christ and then how the text applies to you? Will you remember anything about this sermon in two weeks—or three years? Try to have these goals in mind each Sunday.
3. Listen critically without being critical.
We should be able to think critically about every sermon we hear. Test an interpretation with the rest of Scripture, like the Bereans when they heard Paul preaching. This means that we should trust our pastor while at the same time double-checking his work to make sure he (and we) didn’t miss anything important. We also need to be careful that we don’t become overly critical of our pastor’s sermons. Each pastor will have deficiencies, and not every pastor is as gifted as the next.
4. Listen for you, not for a “friend.”
As sinners, we like to compare our life to others in order to make us feel better about ourselves. Sometimes when we are listening to a sermon, we might jump immediately to, “Oh ____ should be here right now to listen to this.” We should fight this inner tendency.
5. Listen to encourage others.
When we hear something great from the sermon, we should seek to lift up our pastor with encouraging words. Also, when there is something said that is worth sharing—be sure to share it with others. Always think of how a sermon might speak to someone else in need or might comfort you in a difficult situation in the future.
6. Listen in a local church.
In an age of digital media overload, it can be easy to find other pastors or preachers who can preach much better than your pastor. We can easily fall into listening during the week to these “super-apostles” and forget about the ordinary ministry of the word by a regular, non-celebrity pastor. Fight the urge. Live locally. Join a local church body and attend regularly.