EARS TO HEAR

Your magazine’s interest in evangelical preaching is most commendable, but when are you going to have a series on evangelical listening? For a starter you might ask each of your chosen preachers to select his most effective listener (not counting his wife). Those outstanding evangelical listeners might then write up last Sunday’s sermon as they heard it, or, better yet, tell us what they did about it.

Preaching may have fallen on evil days, but it is semi-millennial when compared to listening. Why are there no audiophiles at sermon time? Churches are wired for sound, but so are the listeners: they have an ingenious short-circuit that channels the word in one ear and out the other. To evaluate the G.H.Q. (genuine hearing quotient) in your church, ask your preacher to apply the Eutychus Test. This is done by inserting smoothly in the sermon three test phrases such as “Beware the jabber-wock, my friends.” Posted observers then number the heads or eyebrows that come up. (This test may be inconclusive if the observers miss the key words.)

This problem concerns me. I have never fallen from a window sill in church, but it’s been a near thing from many a pew. What will help me to wake up and listen? Should the preacher punctuate his points with the ringing of a liturgical bell? Could I sip unobtrusively from a thermos of coffee?

At Pastor Peterson’s suggestion, I am now reading Are You Listening? by Ralph Nichols and Leonard Stevens. This book is for men only. It quotes damaging statistics to show that 95 out of 100 men are better listeners than women and that grown-ups listen less than children. It also explains that, since we think faster than anyone can talk, one real problem in listening is what to do with our spare ...

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