SGCB | BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LISTEN: How to Get the Most out of a Sermon

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How to Get the Most out of a Sermon
Jay Adams

Sixteen years ago Dr. Jay Adams released a serious book on the importance of listening to the Word of God as it comes from the preacher. Sadly, the publisher selected a comic book figure for the cover, and a title that did not convey the serious tone of the book. It is the privilege of Solid Ground Christian Books to give this long-fogotten book a new chance to reach the ears and hearts of a new generation.

"Scores of books flood the market on how to preach; few focus on how to listen to preaching. Few parishioners understand Calvin when he said that hearers should become as involved in sermons as preachers. In BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LISTEN, Jay Adams begins to redress this imbalance by providing numerous practical tips on how to get more out of sermons--even poorly preached sermons! Wise are the church leaders who give a copy of this book to every family in their church." - Joel R. Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LISTEN is book that will be useful for new believers and for seasoned veterans as well. In his usual candid style, Dr. Adams seeks to challenge the people in the pew to take up their task of sermon-hearing with earnestness. The book will be very useful in Sunday School classes, Bible Studies, Small Group settings, and even in Family Reading.

"I have written this book because of the dearth of material devoted to the genuine concern for preaching from the listener's point of view. So far as I know, there is no other book like it." These are Jay Adams' words from the preface of the original edition of this work first published 16 years ago. Unfortunately, his words still ring true today. While I am thankful for the plethora of recent publications on the importance of expository preaching, I have often reminded our flock of the importance of expository listening. For this reason, I am thankful for the republication of Be Careful How You Listen. It will prove to be a rich resource for small group studies and Sunday School classes. It will also be of profit as a check for the preacher in developing messages by the Spirit that are in fact "listenable." I look forward to using it privately as well as corporately with our people." - Pastor Todd Wilson, Grace Covenant Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL



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Table of Contents
After Sixteen Years

Preaching will never be out of date. And there are seminary courses without number to prove the point. But where can one find a course about listening for laymen? If it exists, I am unaware of it! Good listening is at least half of the equation when communicating Godís truth. Yet, no one seems to care about it. Originally, by publishing this book, I had hoped to do something to remedy this deplorable situation. But—alas—when it was published, the publisher went out of business and it was never advertised. Thus, through it, I never had the opportunity to offer the help that I had hoped it would provide. Now, at the request of Solid Ground Christian Books for a book that had gone out of print — and shouldnít have — I am delighted once again to offer it anew to listening congregations.

While simple to understand, this is a serious book. It deals with one of the major problems of the modern churchóand there are plenty of them! Yet, to my mind, few more neglected. Preaching lacks much today. It has succumbed to various nefarious influences. Even in Reformed circles there is need for rethinking the practices that, like barnacles, have attached themselves to it. These practices need to be addressed. But there is help for the preacher. Many, recognizing the problem that such accretions cause have been writing about them. But, while cracking these off helps greatly, it does not solve one of the major the problems with preaching. As most Christians know, much preaching produces little fruit. Thoughtful believers wonder why, week after week, even when the Word is faithfully proclaimed, so little change takes place in the lives of listeners. Many preachers are discouraged by this fact, and congregations themselves often drift into a state of malaise.

It is not always the fault of the preacher that this is so. The second element in the preaching context is the congregation. Even good preaching falling on untilled ground that is full of weeds will be choked out. Our Lord was quite clear about that. It is because of the condition of the ground itself that much —perhaps, most—preaching fails. It is time that something is done about this. In this book, the thoughtful Christian who wants to learn how to get the most out of preaching will find specific, concrete help. In one sense, the book is a call for change in the listening habits of Godís children. In another, it is a handbook for how to change for the better. I hope that the right blend of exhortation and direction may be found in it for most Christians. It is my experience, that, while examining my own patterns of listening to the preaching of Godís Word in the light of Scriptural injunctions, I have improved significantly, and I am convinced that any willing child of God can learn to listen better if he so desires. But that is the difficulty: so little has been said or written about the obligation to listen well, that the subject is virtually unknown and untouched. It is my earnest hope that this book will at least go some way toward making a difference. In the Scriptures, there is more instruction about listening than about preaching! Leave it to us sinners to reverse things, putting all of the stress on the latter at the expense of the former!

Now, ask yourself, "If I were asked to set forth principles of good listening and how to develop them, what would I say?" Perplexed? Rightly so. But, after reading this book, I trust you will be able to do so. And not only to articulate them, but be able to put them into practice. It is my hope that there will be boards of elders that distribute the book to the members of their flocks. I can think of few more profitable ways to expend the Lordís funds than to do soor, at least, to make such books available in church bookstores or libraries. I can almost certainly assure you that you will readily find an empty space on the shelf for it.

So, I am pleased to be able to make this book available again (largely, for the first time), and I send it forth asking God to bless its use in the lives of many.

Jay E. Adams
March 30, 2007