Rev. Gerrit Vos’ 25th Anniversary Book – Sioux Center, IA (1927-29)

GVosLast Friday we made an initial post announcing the gift of a treasure for the PRC archives – a beautiful leather volume commemorating the 25-year ministry anniversary of Rev. G. Vos (1894-1968).

The book (which must date from 1952 and probably at least a year before that) is filled with pictures and congratulatory notes from the four PRC congregations he had served up to that point – Sioux Center, IA, 1927-29; Hudsonville, 1929-1932; Hope, Redlands CA, 1932-1943; Edgerton, MN, 1943-1948; and then Hudsonville again, 1948-1966, which is where he was when his 25th anniversary in the ministry was celebrated.

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I gave you a sample of some pages last week; this week let’s focus on that first charge of his in Sioux Center, IA PRC.

By the way, this first charge of Rev. Vos brings up an interesting bit of PRC and PRC Seminary history. That is that Rev. Vos was called and ordained prior to his finishing his seminary training. While he had completed some of his ministerial training in those years prior to 1927, so needy were the PRC for ministers in the early years of her existence that she called and ordained Vos (William Verhil also, by Hull, IA PRC) before he finished seminary. Both of these men did return to school and graduated in 1932 (while he served as Hudsonville PRC’s minister!).

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Now, on to Sioux Center PRC, where Vos served from 1927-29. These are some pages from the book. I post them without further comment at this time, except that I wonder if the church and parsonage are still there. Perhaps some Iowa contacts can let us know.

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A New Treasure for the PRC Archives – Rev. G. Vos’ 25th Anniversary Volume

This past Tuesday (Sept.5, 2017), after a visit to the mailbox, Mrs. Judi Doezema set a package on my library desk at the PRC Seminary.

Nothing unusual about that. Book orders come in regularly, so I am accustomed to seeing boxes and bubble packages of varying sizes on my desk. But this box was unusual – in size and in contents. Besides, I didn’t think I had any outstanding book orders. Nevertheless, I excitedly opened the box.

What I found inside left me short of breath and long of thrills. A special leather-bound book with the words “To the Reverend Gerrit Vos in Commemoration of Twenty Five Years in the Ministry of the Word, 1927-1952” on the cover.

And between the leather covers was a treasure-trove of PRC history under the ministry of Rev. G. Vos (1894-1968). Pictures and congratulatory notes from the four PRC congregations he had served up to that point – Sioux Center, IA, 1927-29; Hudsonville, 1929-1932; Hope, Redlands CA, 1932-1943; Edgerton, MN, 1943-1948; and then Hudsonville again, 1948-1966, which is where he was when his 25th anniversary in the ministry was celebrated.

Every page I turned was a gem. Wonderful pictures of Rev. Vos and his wife and family (cf. above), of the church buildings and parsonages, of congregational picnics and societies, of Consistories and Councils, of Vos and colleagues, of Vos and Schilder – and on the list goes. Pages filled with signatures of church members; with tributes to the gracious pastor who had brought them the gospel and ministered to their needs; with letters from Herman Hoeksema and George Ophoff, his seminary professors and fellow-servants in the gospel in those early years of the fledgling denomination (cf. below); with the full program held in Hudsonville PRC marking his 25th written out in beautiful script – speeches and all! – again, and on the list goes.

What a wonderful gift to the seminary and to the PRC archives! Invaluable! Unspeakable!

And from whom did this precious gift come? From his grandson, Dr. Ben Zandstra (son of Vos’ daughter Marilyn and son-in-law, Dr. Ben Zandstra). In the box was a wonderful letter from Dr. Zandstra, in which he expressed his difficulty in parting with such a treasure (a gift he had received from his mother on the 25th anniversary of his own ordination in the CRC), but also stating, “But I know in my heart that this volume belongs at the school of the Protestant Reformed Churches, the denomination that my grandfather served for so many years. So, I pass it on in his memory & Soli Deo Gloria.”

I have sent Dr. Zandstra a personal letter of thanks for this PRC treasure. But I also take this space to say, “From the bottom of our denomination’s heart, Thank you for this precious gift!”

I plan to scan this book as it is to preserve it in its original form. I have an idea the PRC congregations he served that are still in existence (Hope, Redlands, Edgerton, and Hudsonville) will want a digital copy for their own histories. And I plan to feature some pages from it in the months ahead. I have an idea you will be as excited as I was to see what’s inside this amazing volume. 🙂

Biblical Preaching: The Antidote to Anemic Worship – A. Mohler

One of the special articles in the July Tabletalk is the one quoted and linked below, in which Dr. Al Mohler comments on the rise of music as central in modern evangelical worship and the subsequent demise of the preaching of the gospel.

Toward the end of the article, after his criticism of contemporary worship music, Mohler begins to get at what should be “front and center” in evangelical worship:

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music above all else as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship is the preaching of the Word of God.

Following which Mohler adds these significant paragraphs:

Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God.

The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8, we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply and carefully proclaimed the Word of God.

This text is a sobering indictment of much of contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the Word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?

And that leads him to conclude with these words:

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active Word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, opens eyes, and applies that Word to human hearts.

Let’s give thanks that at the center of our own Reformed worship remains the pure preaching of the gospel, not music or various forms of entertainment. But let’s also examine our own hearts to make sure that this is what we truly desire – in faithfulness to the Bible and the God of the Bible. Otherwise our own worship, though biblically right in form, is just as anemic as that practiced by others.

Source: The Antidote to Anemic Worship by Albert Mohler

Book Alert! Less Than the Least: Memoirs of Cornelius Hanko

Less_Than_the_least-CHanko-2017The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released its latest title, the second edition of the memoirs of Cornelius Hanko, former PRC minister of the Word. Less Than the Least is a The book is

The publisher gives this description on its website:

Less Than the Least is the memoirs of Rev. Cornelius Hanko’s long, fruitful life of nearly a century (1907–2005). He lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the advent of the space age, and spanned the terms of eighteen US presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush.
Son of Dutch immigrants to America, Rev. Hanko served six pastorates in five states, most notably in First Protestant Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1948–1964), along with Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Rev. Hubert De Wolf. Rev. Hanko poignantly describes the grief caused in the PRC by De Wolf’s heresy and schism (1953).
More than this, Less Than the Least follows Rev. Hanko from his childhood, school days, and seminary training, all the way to his retirement (1977) and beyond.
This delightful book comes complete with photos and appendices.

I was asked to write the back cover blurb and was delighted to oblige, since I was privileged to get to know Rev. C. Hanko. I wrote the following:

Humble. Godly. Faithful.

These are the three outstanding spiritual character traits that stand out in my mind when I recall from my own experience the life and ministry of Rev. C. Hanko. And that is because those spiritual marks stood out in his life and labors in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Humility before God and his people. Rev. Hanko lived and ministered in humility because he always saw himself as a sinner saved by grace. For him, being a child of God and a minister of the word was that simple.

Godliness of heart and walk. He lived what he believed. Believing the Reformed faith with all his heart, he devoted himself to the Lord in everything he did. Godly is what he was because he lived close to his God.

Faithfulness as a believer and as a minister of the word. In the face of poverty, personal pain, and persecution he kept the faith of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. His personal memoirs reveal these marks plainly and powerfully.

Less Than the Least is an apropos title, therefore, for Rev. Hanko’s life story. This is precisely how he saw himself. Although, we must also remember the blessed promise of our Lord: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev.2:10b)

By God’s grace alone, this humble, godly, and faithful servant has received his Savior’s reward. May we who follow him, learn from him and follow his example, so that we too may receive that glorious reward.

Read on and be so inspired.

I might add that my wife appears in the book too. In 1975 she was part of the “World Tour of 1975” (Chapter 27) with Rev. C. Hanko and Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema and his wife, along with her friend Beth Bos (DeBoer now). Two excited but scared sixteen-year old gals literally went around the world, staying for three weeks in Singapore by themselves (with other Christians) when the PRC first made contact with the young Christians there. Here’s part of the mention of her in the beginning of that chapter:

In 1975 I took a world tour with Prof. Homer Hoeksema and his wife, Gertrude, and in the meantime did some work for the churches. We had a layover in Los Angeles. Homer and Trude left me, my granddaughter Beth Bos, and her friend Verna Klamer temporarily on another flight to visit some islands in the southern Pacific [Hawaii!].

…The next morning we took in some of the scenery, but in the early afternoon Beth and Verna had to take a plane to Hong Kong and then to Singapore, where we would meet them in about four weeks [pp258-59].

Quite a trip for those young ladies. My wife enjoyed reading that chapter and reminiscing about the good times. We still have the airmail letters we shared back and forth the six weeks we were apart, since we were dating in high school at that time.

If you are looking for an interesting and inspiring book on the life and labors of one of our beloved PRC pastors, Less Than the Least will more than satisfy. Highly recommended.

Published in: on July 3, 2017 at 7:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (3)

listen-up-ashWe are wrapping up Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January, February, and March of this year), and have one more post to go.

As we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well.

You may recall that at the outset of this appendix section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” Having considered “dull” and “biblically inadequate”sermons, we turn to the final subset of bad sermons – “heretical” ones. Yes, Ash deals with these too, and so must we.

Ash begins by defining what a heresy is, giving us three points:

  1. “First, it is an error in something central to Christian faith and not something peripheral” (he mentions as an example not a difference in church government but one who denies Jesus as the Messiah).
  2. “Second, a person is not a heretic if they get something wrong by mistake [or weakness], and then put it right when they are corrected. They are heretics, however, if they hold obstinately to teaching which the Bible shows to be wrong”[and we would add, contrary to the historic Confessions of the church].
  3. “Third. it is only heresy when the person actively seeks to teach this error in the church. A private opinion is not heresy. The mistake of a Christian is not heresy. ..A heretic is not only a false-believer but also also a false-teacher.”

So, what is our responsibility in cases where a minister of the Word is teaching heresy? Ash’ counsel is simple and direct:

The way to listen to these sorts of sermons is to stop listening to them! That is to say, we ought to move away from that kind of church and find a church where they believe and teach the Bible faithfully. We will not look for an exciting church, where the preaching entertains; we will look for a faithful, Bible-teaching church [p.28].

I am thankful to belong to such a church and denomination. Do we appreciate the good sermons we hear from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day? Are we praying for our pastors and, specifically, for their sermon preparation? And are we praying for our listening and for that of our fellow believers?

Ash ends with a good word for all of us:

Not all poor preaching is entirely the fault of the preacher; the congregation has a vital part to play. When a congregation makes it clear that they are reluctant to hear faithful preaching, that they want the sermons to be shorter and play a more marginal role in the meeting, when they listen stony-faced and give no word of encouragement, it is very hard for even the most faithful preacher to persevere (although they ought to, as Jeremiah had to). By contrast, a congregation eager for faithful, challenging Bible preaching is much more likely to get it [p.29].

To that, let’s give a hearty “Amen.”

Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (2)

listen-up-ashWe have now finished going through the seven main points of Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January and February of this year).

But, as we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well. So, it is worth our time to face this as well, since we have all heard at one time or another bad sermons.

Let me add this disclaimer at this point. It has been a long time since I heard a bad sermon. The PRC is blessed with good preachers and preaching, something I am thankful for each Lord’s Day. Today, too, we heard two wonderful sermons – one from our pastor (Rev. C. Spronk) and one from Seminarian Joe Holstege.

With that understanding, let’s return to Ash’s counsel about “bad sermons.” You may recall that at the outset of this section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” Having considered “dull” ones last time, we turn to “biblically inadequate” ones in this post.

According to Ash, this is the kind of sermon in which you as a listener question where the the pastor got his thoughts from. “Somehow, the sermon seems to import all sorts of things not in the passage, or to screen out important things in the passage that do not feature in the preacher’s understanding of biblical truth. The sermon seems to be wrong in places, and to lack the Bible’s balance in other” (p.26).

How do we respond to such sermons? Ash advises us to avoid two dangers:

  1. “The first danger to avoid is developing a critical spirit.” Here, he references those in Jesus’ time who listened to Him, but only because they were trying to catch him i his words (Luke 11:54). We don’t want to be like that, “fault-finders”, because then we will only “feel good about ourselves, how clever we are or how well we know our Bibles; but it will never move us to repentance and faith.”
  2. “The second danger to avoid is being gullible and credulous, believing whatever any preacher says, so long as they say it plausibly and well.” Here, Ash references the Bereans, who tested even what Paul said by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). But here, too, he advises us not to dwell on the parts of the sermon that were wrong, but on  those areas where the preacher was correct, biblically: “Let’s pray for God to apply the bits that came from the passage to our hearts and lives” (p.26).

Does that mean the minister is above questioning or beyond being helped? No, says Ash. If Priscilla and Aquila could help Apollos (Acts 18:27,28), then we may be used by God to help even a pastor grow to be a more biblical preacher. And, as he adds, ” a wise preacher will always be glad to be gently challenged and questioned by honest enquirers” (p.27).

Which also leads us to ask, Are we praying as diligently for our pastors as we ought? Do you want better (more biblical) sermons? Pray for your preacher daily! Listen well to what he brings each week! And encourage him in his work. What a calling he has as the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ!

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Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (1)

listen-up-ashWe have now finished going through the seven main points of Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January and February of this year).

But, as we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well. So, it is worth our time to face this as well, since we have all heard at one time or another bad sermons.

At the outset of this section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” I believe this is a fair and important way to distinguish “bad sermons.” And these distinctions will also properly help us know what our responsibility is in each case.

We begin where Ash does – with “dull” sermons. This is a sermon “that leaves a lot to be desired in its style or presentation,” to which he adds some more detail. But then he also goes on to say,

Let us suppose, however, that this dull sermon is biblically faithful and accurate, and delivered by a preacher who believes the truth, has prepared as best he knows how, and that the sermon is surrounded both by his prayers and yours. If this is so, we ought to do all we can to listen with the aim of profiting by it (p.25).

The author does grant that there is a place here for encouraging the preacher to “get help with his presentational skills” and to pray for improvement – and express appreciation when there is some.

But what I like is the fact that he puts the onus on us listeners to listen better in these circumstances. Listen up to this counsel from Ash:

But above all, we must search our own hearts and come to the sermon praying for God’s help to listen as attentively as our bodies will let us…. My advice is not to worry that quite a bit of the sermon may go over our heads or bypass our consciousness, but to ask God that some part of it may stick and be turned in us to repentance and faith.

Isn’t that a proper, spiritual response to “dull” sermons? That’s a sign of maturity on our part, a mark of being willing to submit to the authority of the Word of God even when it comes through weak means (which it always does).

In addition, Ash has some practical advice:

Try taking some notes, or at least having paper and pen with you, with the aim of jotting down a verse or truth that you can take home and respond to. Try going with a friend and agreeing together not to spend lunch lamenting the preacher’s inadequacies, but rather, sharing positive Bible truths that you have learned or been reminded of, and praying together for God’s help in putting them into practice (p.25).

Since we are accustomed to worshiping and hearing the Word with our spouses and families, this should not be difficult to carry out. Instead of “roast preacher” for Sunday dinner, let’s have “discerning, delightful, and delicious milk and meat” – the milk and meat of our Savior’s gospel (look up Hebrews 5:12-14 and 1 Peter 2:2).

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (6)

listen-up-ashAt the beginning of this new year we continue to look at a booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), written by Christopher Ash.

So we don’t lose the “big picture”, let’s keep in front of us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

We have considered in past weeks #s 1-5; on this Sunday morning we consider #6 – “Do what the Bible says.”

Again, you will readily note the progression of thought. Based on what preaching is, it is good and necessary to attend weekly services where the Word of God is expounded faithfully. There, in the local body of gathered believers, we are to listen carefully to God’s message to us.

But that is not enough. We must also DO what the Word calls us to do – and I might add, BE what the Word calls us to be. We must put on the character of Christ and put on the conduct of Christ. Then, we are truly Christ-like – the purpose of the preaching with regard to ourselves.

With that in mind, Ash begins this section by pointing to and quoting two important passages of God’s Word – James 1:22 and 2 Timothy 3:16, which we reference here:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

On the basis of these passages, the author adds these pertinent comments:

We mustn’t expect sermons to entertain us. We live in a culture of entertainment; we can generally find amusement at the press of a remote control button. One reason people have stopped coming to listen to sermons is that, if they come for entertainment, they can find better entertainment elsewhere. It is rare for a sermon to rival the special effects of a Batman or a Bond…. Most preachers are bound to fail, and mistaken to try.

Nevertheless, from time to time people will come to some preachers to be entertained. Herod enjoyed listening to John the Baptist preach, even though John condemned Herod’s wrong marriage.

…There was a time when the people loved coming to hear Ezekiel preach; somehow it was as entertaining as listening to a popular love song [cf. Ezek.33:32]….

We see this today in the Christian sub-cultures of celebrity preachers. There are a few preachers whose style and manner is so good that we can listen to them for hours. …We might shop around churches until we find a style of preaching to suit our taste, because our aim is to be entertained, rather than to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness.

And, having said that (are we not all convicted by the reality that this pervasive culture influences us too?!), Ash concludes with this:

However, it is a great mistake to think we have it in us to obey [the Word]. On our own we cannot obey. We are slaves to sin, unable to help ourselves. We cannot even repent without God working repentance (eg: 2 Timothy 2 v 25). It is God who opens our hearts to respond to His message, and not just at the start of the Christian life (Acts 16 v 14). We need to pray for God to open our hearts week by week to His truth (pp.18-19).

May we listen up! today with that prayer on our lips.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (4)

listen-up-ashAt the beginning of this new year we are examining a booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), written by Christopher Ash.

Lest we lose the “big picture”, let’s put before us again the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

We have considered in past weeks #s 1-3; tonight we consider #4 – “hear the sermon in church.” This may seem so obvious to us, but Ash makes another important point here, especially in light of our day of “virtual” church (concerning which he says “there is no such thing”!) and private “digital” listening to sermons via the Internet anytime we want, maybe sometimes in lieu of the Word in church on Sunday with God’s people.

“So what” you say? Listen up! as Ash reminds us why we must “hear the sermon in church.”

…The normal place for preaching is the gathering of the local church. We are to hear sermons as a people gathered together; they are not preached so that we can listen to them solo later.

…This church was defined by the call of the word of God to gather under the word of God. It began when God said to Moses: ‘Assemble the people before me to hear my words” (Deuteronomy 4 v 10). This set the standard shape and pattern for the people of God, who are gathered by the word of God (God takes the initiative to summon them, and us) and gathered to sit together under the word of God (‘to hear my words’), to be shaped together by His word. God’s purpose is not to shape a collection of individuals to be each like Christ, but to form a Christlike people.

We may even say that preaching is properly done only when the people of God in a local church gather. When we listen to an MP3 recording of a sermon, we are not listening to preaching, but to an echo of preaching in the past (pp.12-13).

Do you see the biblical basis for what Ash says? Do we see the pattern God set for us? But there are practical reasons why we need to hear the word together too. I like what Ash says next:

When we listen to a sermon together, we are accountable to one another for our response. Hearing while gathered is significantly better than hearing alone.

…When we listen together, you know what message I’ve heard, and I know what message you’ve heard. I’ve heard it. You know I’ve heard it. I know that you know I’ve heard it! And you expect me to respond to the message, just as I hope you will. And so we encourage one another and stir up one another to do what the Bible says. By being with you, I make it easier for myself to respond the way I know I ought to respond. …If I pay no attention to the sermon I heard with you sitting beside me, you will know, and I would hate you to know I wasn’t listening!

When we listen together, we respond together… (pp.13-14).

Isn’t that a valid point? And a very practical one? I need you to help me listen to the Word preached properly. And you need me. And so we need to be in church together to hear the Word together.

Let that truth help us prepare for worship tomorrow. Including the determination to be there. In church. Next to you. I’m going to pray for the preacher and for God’s blessing on the Word he brings. And for you as you hear. Will you pray for me? We are in this “together.”

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (3)

listen-up-ashIn this first month of the year we have begun to examine a short booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), written by Christopher Ash.

Once more let’s get before us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Tonight, to help us prepare for hearing the Word of God tomorrow, let’s “listen up” as Ash instructs us in that third ingredient – “Check the preacher says what the passage says.” What does he mean by this?

Unless we want to be brainwashed, we ought never to hear or watch anything without engaging our critical faculties. If that’s true for TV or a movie, how much more for sermons where the preacher claims the authority of God. We need to check that the preacher is actually using the only available authority, which is a borrowed authority  that only comes from teaching what the Bible passage teaches. So, we need to listen carefully to the passage and ask whether what the preacher says is what the passage says.

And then, after pointing out that some sermon listeners like to take notes to be better focused, while others prefer not to because they find it distracting, Ash states this:

Whatever strategy you use, always have in mind the question: where did the preacher get that from? We are not asking how well or badly the preacher preached, in terms of communication skills. We are asking whether the message of the sermon was unpacking and pressing home to us the message of the passage.

And, in conclusion on this point, he reminds us that for this too we need the Holy Spirit:

It is the work of God, by His Spirit, to open our minds so that we listen clearly, think clearly, and discern clearly whether a sermon is true to the Bible. By nature we cannot think straight. So again we need to pray for His Work in us.