Question: I have been having such a hard time paying attention during my pastor’s sermons lately. I know that sermons are important and I have enjoyed some good ones in the past, but it’s essentially been nap time lately on Sunday mornings. What should I do?
Answer: Personally speaking, and as a preacher, your question is one that I appreciate very much because it gives all of us an opportunity for self-examination and, hopefully, for self-improvement.
It seems that your present predicament is a result of either poor preaching or poor hearing. There is also the possibility that it is due to a little bit of both.
While it greatly pains me to admit it, there are plenty of preachers in the church who simply do a very poor job when it comes to preaching God’s Word. Here are three possible reasons for that and recommendations on how you might respond:
Education – Some pastors preach poorly because they were never taught how to preach properly in Bible college or seminary. Many modern denominations are more focused on teaching administrative and interpersonal skills than exegetical and homiletical skills.
There are many good books on preaching available which you might consider buying as a gift for your pastor. Most pastors love books, so he will probably not be offended by the gift. Let me know if you would like a list of titles.
Time – There are many other pastors who were taught how preach, but who simply do not spend an appropriate amount of time in sermon preparation each week. This is sometimes by choice, but more usually due to other church-related responsibilities.
Make sure that your church is making good use of its elders, deacons, committees, and administrative assistants so that your pastor has at least 20 hours of undisturbed time in his study each week for sermon preparation.
Theology – Unfortunately, many pastors simply have a very low view of preaching. This stems from an even deeper theological problem of having a very low view of scripture.
If a pastor truly believes that the Word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and if he then sticks closely to that word while preaching (2 Timothy 4:2), then his sermons will probably be powerful. Unfortunately, many pastors do not trust God’s Word as they ought. As a result, their messages consist mainly of stories, illustrations, anecdotes, and humor.
There is probably no way you can address this problem. You may need to transfer your membership to a church that holds a higher view of the authority and efficacy of scripture.
All that having been said, we must also be honest enough to consider the distinct possibility that the problem you described in your question may be a result of poor hearing rather than poor preaching.
Jesus likened the preaching of the word to seeds which are sown and explained that the “success” of the seed is very much dependent upon the condition of the soil (Matthew 13:1-23).
Do you prepare the soil of your heart before coming to hear the word preached each week? Do you break it up with the plough of self-examination and repentance? Do you clean it up by removing the weeds of sin? Do you water it with prayer? Do you shelter it from the hardening influence of worldliness? Do you fertilize it with personal Bible reading and study?
If so, then a preacher would have to be awfully bad for you not to benefit spiritually as he comes to the pulpit each week to sow the seed of scripture.
Maybe he is that bad. Maybe he is not. Maybe you should call him this week and share your personal struggle. If he loves the Bible as much as you seem to, then it will most likely be a very profitable conversation.