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How to hear a sermon

A retired pastor, writes about how to be active listeners and get the most impact from a sermon.


Rev. Larry Buxton is a retired elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Faculty Director of the Course of Study at Wesley Theological Seminar, and a clergy coach.

In a umc.org feature he reports that a recent Gallup survey, indicates that three out of four churchgoers say the sermon is a major factor in why we attend. “Yet, we have all experienced moments when the message seems to pass by us,” says Buxton. “Sometimes we catch our minds wandering during the sermon. Other times we cannot recall the main point of the message on Monday morning.”

He goes on to offer a few tips can enable more effective listening.There’s a grammar to a good sermon. In his book The Four Pages of the Sermon, author and professor Paul Scott Wilson teaches preachers the “parts of speech” that help bring out the deepest meaning of the message. Listening for them helps us engage the sermon more fully.

“A good sermon needs to confront fearlessly the brokenness in or behind the Bible passage,” Buxton explains. “A friend once described this part of the sermon as “drilling without novocaine.”

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