Review of Listen Up!

October 18, 2010

Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons
©2009 by Christopher Ash
Published by The Good Book Company
30 pages

Over the last few years, I have been blessed to discover biblically solid materials being published by ministries outside of the United States. Matthias Media, Day One and The Good Book Company (for example) have all recently opened up offices stateside. When searching for resources, I have increasingly looked to these publishers first. Of course, we Americans must be able to put up with the British spellings and the occasion odd phrase (“listening is like eating a very heavy pudding with nothing to cut through the stodge”).

From The Good Book Company comes a wonderful booklet (30 pages), Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons. The booklet itself (measuring about 8.5 x 6 inches) is colorful, the artwork is entertaining and the layout is engaging. However, the content is better yet. The Director of the Cornhill Training Course in London, England, Christopher Ash has done congregations and preachers a great service. I wish everyone who listens to me preach would read this booklet (I am making them available for free to my listeners).

The author gives “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” These include: Expect God to speak, Admit God knows better than you, Check the preacher says what the passage say, Hear the sermon in church, Be there week by week, Do what the Bible says, Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

Each of the seven starts by introducing us to two different listeners and their approach to listening and why one profits from the sermon and why the other doesn’t. Each of the seven concludes with practical steps to take. In between is very good advice on listening. This advice is also good for the preacher to remember as he prepares his sermon.

Ash’s counsel is solidly based on the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. “However, when the Bible is faithfully opened up, we are to listen to the preacher’s voice as the voice of God Himself. The preacher stands in the great tradition of prophets and apostles who spoke the word of God” (p 4). He makes it clear that the preacher’s authority is borrowed and it is only as the preacher sticks to the truth of the text that he should be taken seriously. He advises the listeners to constantly ask themselves “where did the preacher get that from?” (p 10). He insightfully spells out why sermons should be listened to in person at church. He cautions against a steady diet of “celebrity preachers” (p 18).

The booklet concludes with advice on how to listen to bad sermons and suggestions for encouraging good preaching. Both preacher and listener will benefit from this booklet.

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