When Do Preachers Listen to the Word of God?

Tuesday is for Preaching

Monday morning I drove back from Michigan (5 hours) where I have been preaching the last two months for a friend on sabbatical. The trip was interrupted by a stop for gas, two phone calls, three restroom breaks (tmi?) a side trip to deliver a gift of 6-7 lbs of fresh-cut asparagus to Don and Naomi Cole (Moody Radio) and another stop at my daughter’s workplace for a quick hug. [A new friend of mine in Michigan asked me to surprise the Cole’s with the package.] 

The remainder of the trip I was able to listen to the entire book of Acts and 9 chapters of Matthew. It was a fantastic experience. 

I am a great proponent of thinking hard, long and logically through a passage. I don’t think there is any substitute for sitting down with a pen and a piece of paper (or a computer screen and a keyboard) and working through the logical connections of words and phrases to see how a writer makes words do what they are supposed to do. There is no substitute for it but there is a supplement–a very important and too often neglected one.

Listening. Listening to the word of God read. Reading it out loud yourself. Finding the rhythm of a story is sometimes more a matter of hearing than it is analyzing. The Bible was written to be heard. Jesus’ teaching has an oral/auditory dynamic that simply, … well …, must be heard. I heard things in the narrative of Acts and Matthew that I don’t think I have ever heard before. Of course, when I get down to study the text in its particularity, I will check the things I think I heard/saw as I listened. But sometimes, I think it works the other direction too. We need to test what we think we are seeing in a text by listening to it out loud.

Maybe that is part of why Paul says that we need to devote ourselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13, ESV) We seem to have the “exhortation and teaching” part down, though there is way too much moralizing and not enough gospel in our public exhortation. But the “public reading of Scripture” is done so poorly in most churches that the freshness of the words of God, the vividness of its images, and the incisiveness of its thrusts and parries at our souls, is lost in the analytical expeditions we take our people on Sunday after Sunday. 


  1. Invest in a good CD of the Bible. Listen to it regularly.
  2. Pay attention to your public reading of Scripture. Practice it. Do it well. Transport your people to the feet of Savior–a listener in the crowd, perhaps hearing the words of life for the first time.
  3. Train a team of “readers” for your congregation to help with calls to worship, reading of preaching portions and psalms in congregational worship.

One thought on “When Do Preachers Listen to the Word of God?

  1. Another reason for reading the Scriptures aloud publicly is that it is enjoyable to do so. There is a sense of putting yourself into the reading, heart and soul, as you attempt to use every gift the Lord has given you to communicate the Good News. In short, it is fun!


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