We've been talking about the essential skill of listening, particularly as it relates to Sunday sermons. I asked you to come up with some ideas on what can be done by the listener (not the preacher) to keep the sermon interesting. Let's consider together how we could improve our listening skills. I'm indebted to Haddon Robinson, a Ph.D. in the field of communication, for these four "don'ts" that are worth remembering.
Don't assume the subject is dull. When the topic is announced, avoid the habit of thinking, I've heard that before or This doesn't apply to me. Good listeners believe they can learn something from everyone. Any message will have a fresh insight or a helpful illustration. A keen ear will listen for such.
Don't criticize before hearing out the speaker. All speakers have faults. If you focus on them, you will miss some profitable points being made. Those who listen well refuse to waste valuable time concentrating on the negatives. They also refuse to jump to conclusions until the entire talk is complete.
Don't let your prejudices close your mind. Some subjects are charged with intense emotions. Effective listeners keep an open mind, restraining the tendency to argue or agree until they fully understand the speaker's position in light of what the Scriptures teach.
Don't waste the advantage which thought has over speech. Remember what we learned yesterday about the gap between speech-speed and thought-speed? Diligent listeners practice four skills as they mentally occupy themselves:
- First, they try to guess the next point.
- Second, they challenge supporting evidence.
- Third, they mentally summarize what they have heard.
- Fourth, they apply the Scripture at each point.
Writing down the outline and a few thoughts during the sermon also keeps the mind from drifting off course.
Young Samuel took the advice of Eli the priest, and as a result, he heard what God wanted him to learn. The message was riveted into Samuel's head so permanently, he never forgot it. And it all started with:
"Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:9).
Try that next Sunday. A few seconds before the sermon begins, pray that prayer. You will be amazed how much more you hear when you work hard to listen well.
Excerpt taken from Come before Winter and Share My Hope by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.