Home Voices The Exchange Listening is an A.R.T.

Listening is an A.R.T.

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A few Mondays ago, while I was taking my eldest son to school, I asked him “if he learned anything from the message on Sunday?” He replied that he did, to which I eagerly asked, “What did you learn?” As I was taking my eldest son to school this morning, I asked him “if he learned anything from the message yesterday?” He replied that he did, to which I eagerly asked, “What did you learn?” Then I got the preteen recording, “I don’t know!”

I’m learning a lot at this phase of parenting, but I’m pretty sure it meant, “I don’t want to talk about it dad, so can you just leave me alone?” But being the stubborn yet loving father I am, we talked out what the weekend message was about.

My conversation with my son got the wheels turning for a follow up post to an article I wrote entitled, “Preaching is an A.R.T.” 

For most churches, the bulk of the time set aside for the corporate worship gathering is the message. It is expected that the pastor is ready to deliver a biblically-sound, attention-keeping, and culturally-applicable talk. In short, it is expected that the pastor has come prepared to deliver. And I understand this completely.

But here’s a question for all my brothers and sisters and other church leaders who aren’t the main teacher on the weekends: Do you come prepared to the weekend corporate gatherings to listen and receive a word from your Father? 

Just as there is a burden for pastors/teachers to deliver the teaching of the Word of God, there is also a burden for believers to listen and receive the teaching of the Word. As I want to come and give God and the church my best, I desire that everyone come and give God and the church their best. Both are an A.R.T.

As I’ve explained how preaching is an A.R.T. let me explain how listening is also an A.R.T.

A — Attune Your Heart to God

The psalmist exclaims, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Ps 122:1). There was joy in the psalmist’s heart in anticipating going to the house of the Lord to worship. Attuning one’s heart to God prior to corporate worship is setting one’s focus on what they are anticipating once they get there. Corporate worship is about gathering with the people of God to meet with God.

If I’m going to a Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert, I’m going to set my heart on hearing them and being part of their show. If I’m going to Disney World, I’m going to set my heart on seeing and experiencing Mickey Mouse and all that entails. In the same way, if I’m supposed to be gathering together with my brothers and sisters and meeting with God, then I should be setting my heart on seeing, experiencing, anticipating, and meeting with Him. I think a reason why some leave corporate worship empty, dissatisfied, and disappointed is because they attuned their heart for consumption not consecration. 

R — Resist Being a Critic

If you attune your heart for consumption not consecration you will see yourself as a consumer and thus a critic. I understand we live in a consumeristic culture. When we go to a restaurant, we expect to order something specific off the menu. If that specific item comes out any other way than what we like, we have a tendency to either send it back or voice our displeasure to a manager for our poor experience. Although our bellies may be full when we leave, our hearts our empty because it wasn’t quite the experience we enjoyed.

For a little over a decade, I lived as a consumer and thus a critic in the corporate worship gatherings I attended when I wasn’t the one preaching. Because I was so “learned,” instead of listening to what the preacher/pastor was saying I was making mental notes of what he said that he could say better as well as what he didn’t say that he should have. As you could imagine, I would leave empty because I was so disappointed with what I had just experienced. It wasn’t until I resisted being a critic of preachers and seeing myself as a child in need of hearing from the Father that I began to hear God speak. In other words, I started to hear from God when I changed the way I viewed and attended corporate worship. Corporate worship wasn’t about me going to critique someone, but it was about me going to hear from someone—my heavenly FATHER—and be conformed more into the image of Jesus.

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Josh serves as the Co-Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, IL, the Co-Regional Director of Lausanne North America, an Adjunct Faculty at Wheaton College’s Graduate School of Ministry, Mission, and Leadership, as well as a Teaching Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, IL. He holds a PhD in Missiology and loves mobilizing the church to participate in God’s mission. He and his wife Joannie live in Wheaton, IL with their three kids.