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

Listening is an A.R.T.

T — Take notes on the Message

I hear the argument all the time, “Our culture’s attention span continues to decrease,” therefore we need to have shorter sermons. In all honesty, I don’t think sermon length is necessarily the issue. But here’s what I do know. There are a lot of things in our culture that keep the attention of people. Two to four-hour ball games. Two-hour movies. My kids can sit for hours on end — if my wife and I let them — and play video games. Thus, the problem when it comes to listening to talks, messages, or sermons (or whatever you want to call them) isn’t a length problem, it is an engagement problem.

Think about it this way. If you go to a movie that you don’t care for, you are more inclined to be disengaged. Therefore, if you had a long week and are tired, you might find yourself dosing off in that particular movie. Or what if a friend invites you to see a ballgame, but the team you are really interested in isn’t playing. As a result, you don’t necessarily mind being late to the game. You don’t mind going to the concession stand during important plays. In short, your lack of interest leads to a lack of engagement.

Therefore, I believe shorter sermons aren’t necessarily the answer for disengaged people. It doesn’t matter how short or long the message is, disengaged people will be disengaged. Thus, the answer to the A.R.T. of listening — and thus engagement — is some form of note taking. If a small business owner had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Bezos for 45-minutes or more to talk about business and leadership, I bet they would bring something to jot down notes. Corporate worship is an opportunity for God’s people to hear from God via one of His shepherds.In the same way that creating and delivering sermons is an A.R.T., listening to them is an A.R.T. to be cultivated as well. 

Regardless of how flawed or even how unqualified you may think the person is, God can use earthen vessels to deliver divine messages. If God can use a donkey to communicate, He sure can use people — regardless of their abilities or their intellectual capacity. In short, when it comes to taking notes remember this: Consumers don’t write down what is said, learners do.

In closing, if you find yourself like my son, listening to a message but walking away not really knowing what you learned, then you might want to make some slight adjustments in how you view corporate worship gatherings. Start attuning your heart to God prior to the worship gathering. Tell God you’re eager and hungry to hear from Him. Ask God to speak through your pastor. Come with great anticipation and expectation to meet with God — not necessarily get your “needs” met. Resist the temptation to be critical. You’re not there to consume, but to listen and learn. Last, take notes. Note taking keeps one engaged and ready to highlight a word that the Father may want them to hear. The reality is, listening just like preaching is an A.R.T.