We show reverence to God by listening to what He has said. The early church listened to preaching (Acts 20:7, 20; Romans 1:15; 1 Corinthians 14; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). They also listened to the scriptures being read (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 1 Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3).
The preacher is to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), not promote mere politics, personal opinion, or self. The term “preacher” means “a herald” (Vine’s), “a herald, a messenger… who conveyed official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave public summons or demand” (Thayer). Kittle’s adds “It is important that heralds deliver news or pass on messages strictly as these are given unto them.”
The auditors are to: (1) Test what is said by the scriptures themselves (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). (2) Apply lessons learned to their lives (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22). Listening should be an active and engaged event. The mind should be working. The ear should be attentive. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t view this as a passive activity. You are engaged in worship.
Here are some suggestions: (1) Open your Bible and follow along with the message. It’s amazing how many never crack their Bibles during a scripture reading, a Bible class, or in a sermon. (2) Take notes. This will help you stay focused on the lesson, and clear on the major points and how they relate. It will help you to determine if the speaker logically establish his point. It will give you information to study and meditate upon when you get home. It will give you information that can be used in studies and conversations with others. (3) Don’t get lost. Most sermons have a key text. Turn there and follow along. A preacher may reference other passages. For instance: I may say God created the heavens and the earth – Genesis 1. I am grounding my lesson in scripture. The reference is there if you need it. You might want to write it down. It’s likely the case that you won’t need to turn to Genesis 1 to know that God created the heavens and the earth. Stay focused on the key text. A preacher may give supporting scriptural evidence on a matter, but don’t lose the key point or major text. If I think it is needful for you to turn to another passage I’ll typically say, “Turn with me to…” or “my next point is from…”, etc. (4) If you didn’t understand something in the lesson, ask. Most preachers are happy to clarify things, or even to study a subject out with you if there is confusion or disagreement on a matter. Any preacher that won’t should not be trusted.
Don’t diminish the importance of this part of our worship assembly. Brother Johnny Ramsey used to say that he didn’t understand why it was the case that people would not think of entering a room or getting up and down and walking around while we’re talking to God (prayer), but had not qualms about doing the same when God is talking to us (scripture reading, preaching and teaching). He asked if we care more about what we say to God, than what He says to us. I think such is something to consider.