For example, I was in a used book store the other day and I picked up a listening guide to Charles Ives' Unanswered Question. This is a piece of music that is as mysterious and complex as it is simple and direct. The listening guide not only pointed out features of the music to listen for but encouraged a particular attitude or state of mind to approach the work. When I went home and listened to the piece I could hold the structure of the whole piece in mind even as I heard the details of each note. I could "hear the forrest and the trees" if you will. Therefore, a listening guide for sermons in general might be helpful in a similar way.
Try this one on for size: when listening to a sermon think of the following acronym: P.R.A.Y
- Participate -- be an active listener and don't be afraid to agree and disagree, or encourage and motivate, the preacher vocally.
- Response -- what is your immediate gut level response to the word preached. Is it conviction or motivation, inspiration or gratitude, boredom, joy, anger or something else.
- Action -- What action, if any, are you motivated to take? What is God calling you to do through the sermon?
- Yearning -- What are you still yearning for after the sermon? Is it more clarity or less conviction, more hope or less direction? What questions are you inspired to ask?
Now if this acronym is helpful for you, then I have an invitation for you: Come hear me preach, then join me for a beer (my treat) and critique my preaching on this outline. It will help you listen and help me become a better preacher, both of which will strengthen God's Kingdom.