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Monday Is for Membership: Expositional Listening, Part 1

November 3, 2008

The first mark of a health church member is expositional listening.  Now, this presupposes expositional preaching, which Anyabwile explains is when “the pastor’s preaching agenda is determined by the Scripture” so that the main point of a passage is the main point of the sermon.  There are implications for the preacher as well as the listener.  For the preacher, you cannot expect your people to be accumstomed to listening to the voice of God in Scripture if you are not committed to the Word of God in your preaching.  If the content of your sermon is on felt needs or how-to’s, then your audience will have themselves as the reference point of preaching, not God.  We think differently about ourselves when we understand who God is and what He has done for us in Christ.  Listening to God through expositional preaching presupposes that the preaching will be fundamentally about God because the Word of God is preeminently about Christ and His glory.

Anywabwile defines “expositional listening” as follows:

“Expositional listening is listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians” (20).

He then lists five benefits of expositional listening.  They are:

1.  Cultivates a Hunger for God’s Word

“Expositional listening gives us a clear ear with which to hear God” (20).

2.  Helps Us to Focus on God’s Will and to Follow Him

“God’s agenda for his people takes center stage, reorders our priorities, and directs us in the course that most honors him” (20).

3.  Protects the Gospel and Our Lives from Corruption

“The failure to listen expositionally has disastrous effects.  False teachers enter the church and hinder the gospel.  Ultimately, the truth is displaced by myths and falsehoods.  Where members cultivate the habit of expositional listening they guard themselves against ‘itching ears’ and protect the gospel from corruption” (21).

4.  Encourages Faithful Pastors

“Few things are more discouraging or dishonoring to such men than a congregation inattentive to the Word of God.  Faithful men flourish at the fertile reception of the preached Word” (21).

5.  Benefits the Gathered Congregation

“As we gather together in our local churches and give ourselves to hearing the voice of God through his preached Word, we’re shaped into one body.  We are united in understanding and purpose.  And that unity testifies to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 17:21).  But if we listen with our own interets and agendas in mind, if we develop ‘private interpretations’ and idiosyncratic views, we risk shattering that unity, provoking disputes over doubtful matters, and weakening our corporate gospel witness” (22).

These are some very helpful words about the benefits of listening to the text not as a passive observer, but an active participant in the worship service.  Expositional listening is active listening, and next Monday we will discuss how to cultivate the habit of expositional listening in our lives.  But in the meantime, consider what the importance of expositional listening has in the life of a church plant.  Many people will be coming from various backgrounds, religious experiences, different worldviews.  Without the authoritative Word of God to conform and shape our minds, those tradtions, presuppositions, and cultural filters will produce “private interpretations” that seek to fit the Bible into our way of thinking, not our way of thinking to the truth of God’s Word.

We live in a postmodern world which believes that the reader/listener has the right to determine what a text says.  Therefore, if there are 20 people listening, there are a potential of 20 different meanings to a text, all of which must been equally as valid as the other.  This is relativism plain and simple.  But as Christians, we know that God has spoken.  He is the Author, and He has also given us His Spirit to illumine the Word which He has inspired.  There is one meaning determined solely by the Author.  Our goal is to listen clearly to what God is saying in Scripture and seek to apply that in our own context and in the lives of those arround us.  Communicating gospel truths effectively mean that we first hear from God and then speak what He has told us in His Word.  That’s our goal.  Listen.  Learn.  Love. And lead a life with ears to hear, hearts to obey, and feet to run for the glory of God.

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