Acts 17:10-12 (NIV)
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
In order for the Holy Spirit to be unimpeded in its work, we must make every effort to hear what God is trying to tell us when He speaks. It is possible, for example, to “listen to every word of a sermon, while actually not hearing a word of it. Sadly, there are some vacant attendees like this in churches each and every week. Their bodies may be in the pew, but their minds are obviously somewhere else. There are two types of listeners in practically every church in the world. There are passive listeners and aggressive listeners. You most-likely know them better as active listeners, but for the purpose of this blog, I am going to call them aggressive listeners.
A passive listener is one who’s present at services, maybe even every week, but just sits in their seat and lets their mind wander during the service, especially during the sermon. They sit there and watch other people, noticing how they dress and act, socializes with friends, and makes lunch plans in their head. They don’t go to church to hear from the Lord. They show up out of habit, or because they or worried about what other people think about them, or because the simple act of going makes them feel better about themselves.
An aggressive listener, on the other hand, walks into the sanctuary excited about what the Lord is going to say. This Christian has a Bible with them ready to read along, a notebook, and a pen in hand, ready to capture the meat of the message. They scribble down as much as they can, trying not to miss a single point of the sermon. Throughout the message, they ask themselves, How does this apply to my life?
I have been both types of listeners in my life. Up until about 7 years ago, I was a passive listener. I went to church, but because I was more worried what people would say if I didn’t go. I was certainly not listening for God to speak to me. I was going for all the wrong reasons.
Shortly after stepping over the faith line in early 2009, I discovered the art of taking notes during sermons and how, by writing things down, I got a lot more out of the sermon. It also helped me remember what was said. I could refer back to my notes throughout the week and I was getting so much more out of what I was hearing. It has also helped me grow so much closer to God in the process. Over the past 7 years, I have amassed a pretty large collection of binders and journals filled with notes from various sermons I have heard both in person and online. It is one of my most valued possessions. I refer back to them often.
God communicates in many different ways, and when He speaks, we should always listen actively, even aggressively. If you find your mind wandering during worship, perhaps the problem is that you are approaching God in a passive manor. Ask God to refocus your thoughts, and decide to be a better listener from now on.
I would also challenge you to consider getting a journal or notebook and use it for jotting down notes whenever you attend church. The act of writing it down will help you to focus on what is being said and it will help you remember it later on. It has made a huge difference for me and I think it could for you too. Try it for the next three months and see if it makes a difference for you.
Be warned though, that if you start doing this, you will probably never go back. That’s Ok, I’m sure God will appreciate it.