[forthright] Listening "Intentively"

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 21:04:04 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Your editors are on the move, and Richard Mansel not
only writes today, but is serving as email editor in
our absence. Thanks, Richard!


Listening "Intentively"
  by Richard Mansel

Men will rise and lead the congregation in prayer. As
they do, they pray that the preacher will be able to
have a ready recollection of his sermon and that the
congregation will listen attentively. In many places,
though, they do not say attentively. Instead, they
substitute "intentively," which is an obsolete word no
longer in use./1 However, if we consider this word,
it actually makes a lot of sense in this context.

When we listen to a sermon attentively, we listen
very carefully and politely, which is commendable.
However, in itself, this only goes so far. What will
we do after we have listened attentively? Will we
ponder the thoughts as they leak into the ether? Will
we act upon them in any way? A sermon unheeded is a
sad, lonely thing.

When we listen "intentively," we do so with a
purpose. We intend to act upon what we have heard. We
are receiving a call to arms so we leap into action.
If only we would listen to sermons with this in mind,
the kingdom would move rapidly forward.

Each sermon must provide an action for listeners to
engage in. Sermons that are simply academic exercises
pose little threat to Satan. They massage our minds,
but the message is quickly lost in the hubbub of life.

Scripture is the basis of all that we preach
(Colossians 3:17; 2 Timothy 4:1), but we can't just
quote a string of passages without making application
to the lives of the listeners. The Scriptures cannot
speak to the mind that is not stimulated to act. This
function of preaching is indispensable.

Entreating listeners to live more righteously is
certainly biblical (1 John 2:29). However, listeners
need an explanation and practical advice on how to
accomplish this goal. What does it mean to live
righteously? How will it change our lives? What will
it mean on a daily basis?

When we preach or listen to sermons, we both bear a
responsibility to bear fruit. Fired with the Word and
with purpose, the preacher tries to implant God's
truths in the hearts and minds of his listeners. His
subject matter pierces the listeners' defenses when
properly delivered by a man of God focused on the love
of souls (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth in love
means that we care more about souls than scoring
points. Lifting the name of Christ means it supersedes
our own. The message is bigger than the man who
delivers it. We stand aside and let it work
(Ephesians 3:14-19).

As preachers and listeners, we are committed to the
edification and the salvation of souls. We never
simply mark time in worship. Our hobbies and agendas
go in the wastebasket, while lifting souls to heaven
takes precedence. Stale lessons and comedy routines
languish in drawers. Instead, Jesus, discipleship,
resurrection, faith and the meat of the gospel speak
to listeners whom we have taught to listen
"intentively." This skill, like anything else, is
taught. However, first the preacher must listen the
same way to God's will.

We prepare the sermon over time as we reach their
sense of spiritual responsibility and help them attain
goals in the faith. We help them place themselves in
the text as active participants. They are empowered
when they have the "working of His mighty power" in
their veins (Ephesians 1:19). Their transfusion is
enabled when those who proclaim the Word have also
been fueled.

Will we learn and teach others to listen
"intentively"? Will we grasp the real need to do so?
Is heaven worth the effort?
1/ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intentively

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