Editor’s Note: This article is an adapted extract from Gather by Tony Merida. What makes gathering as the church special? How does this influence the way we approach church life? Read the book to learn more, and use the free small group kit to dig deeper into this topic with your church.

The goal of all preaching in corporate worship is the same as every other aspect of the gathering: to exalt Christ.

Hearing God’s Word preached to us does not happen after worship. It is worship. The whole of Scripture speaks to us of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44-45), and so good preaching exposes the meaning of a biblical text and points people from that text to Christ, so that they may know him, worship him, and obey him.

So, when you listen to a sermon, remember that God has not given you this gift in order to leave you excited by the oratory or with a better explanation of the text, but to leave you in awe of who Jesus is and how he loves his people.

As church members, we need to challenge ourselves: do we give the same degree of attention to hearing the Word as we do to the other elements of worship?

Our Temptation During Preaching

It’s easy to sing our hearts out, to enjoy the fellowship of our church family, to be grateful that our kids are engaged by the kids’ ministry . . . but to allow ourselves to zone out during the sermon or to forget what we were shown of Jesus and his call on our lives straight after the preaching has finished.

Imagine talking to your friend or your spouse and then putting your fingers in your ears when it is their turn to talk, or listening in such a half-hearted way that five minutes later you have forgotten what they shared with you. That would not go well!The goal of all preaching in corporate worship is the same as every other aspect of the gathering: to exalt Christ. Click To Tweet

Likewise, be sure not only to praise God for faithful, Christ-exalting preaching but to pray that the Spirit will help you listen to it, respond to it, and remember and be changed by it.

Preaching Is a Long-Established Pattern in Public Worship

Right from the start, Christians have prioritized the exposition of Scripture in their assemblies. After talking about public prayer in corporate worship in 1 Tim. 2:1-8, Paul has this to say about the public reading and exposition of Scripture in corporate worship: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).

In his commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, R. Kent Hughes comments, “This simple sentence is a landmark text in defining the major work of the pastor and the worship of the church.” This verse highlights biblical authority, and it displays a biblical pattern of exposition in corporate worship.

The word translated with the English phrase “public reading of Scripture” (anagnōsis) means to read aloud in public. It is the word we find in Nehemiah, as the people gathered to hear God’s Word in a massive assembly (Neh. 8:8), and in Jesus’s sermon in Nazareth, as he reads from Isaiah and explains it (Luke 4:16).

Listen with a Humble Heart

Churches today carry on this rich tradition as we read the Scriptures publicly and then hear them explained and applied in the assembly. God builds his people by his Word. He sanctifies us through his truth (John 17:17). It is one of the primary ways in which we behold the glory of Christ and experience spiritual renewal (2 Cor. 3:18–4:6).

So, listen to the sermon with a humble heart, expecting that God will change you through the preaching of his Word.Hearing God’s Word preached to us does not happen after worship. It is worship. Click To Tweet

In Do You Believe? Paul Tripp states:

“You cannot sit under the teaching of the Word of God with an open and willing heart and remain the same. In teaching you, it recreates you in the likeness of the one who made you and gifted you . . .. The Bible is God’s constant curriculum, and it has no graduation ceremony. No matter how long you have been a Christian, you will need its instruction today as much as you needed it on your first day as an infant Christian.”

How we listen to the Word matters! If we listen to the Word humbly and eagerly, we will experience transformation (see Luke 8:9-15; James 1:21). We can experience that vivid image in the prophet Isaiah, where he says that Scripture is like the rain and snow that fall to the earth, and then says, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead the brier shall come up the myrtle” (Isa. 55:13).

Tony Merida
Written by: Tony Merida on January 9, 2023

Tony Merida is the pastor for preaching and vision of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, vice president of planter development for the Send Network, dean of Grimké Seminary, and a Board member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of a number of books, including Love Your ChurchThe Christ-Centered ExpositorOrdinary, and Orphanology. He and his wife, Kimberly, have five adopted children.