This past Sunday a member of the church came up to me with an honest question. He wanted to know how he could best absorb all the teaching he received on a Sunday. His comment was something like this:
Aaron, do you have a method to figure out what to walk away with on a Sunday? In Sunday school I get a great lesson, the sermon is meaty, and the Sunday evening devotional is helpful. But sometimes I’m overwhelmed, and I’m not sure how to take what I’ve learned and put it to use the rest of the week. What should I do?
I don’t remember what I told him in the church lobby, but after a few days to think and some conversations with others, here is how I would answer his concern.
1. Thank God for your desire to put the teaching to good use. As God’s people we ought to strive to store up God’s Word in our hearts (Psa 119:11)—it looks like that’s exactly what you are trying to do.
2. Don’t let Satan discourage you. He’ll do anything to distract you from God’s grace. He’ll tempt you to think that you aren’t a very good Christian if your sermon notes aren’t perfect or if you walk away from a study a bit confused. None of us will be perfect students or stewards of the Word—that’s why we need Jesus.
3. Appreciate the cumulative effect of good teaching. I asked Dustin Butts, a great teacher and staff member at MVBC, what his approach to getting the most out of Sunday is. He reflected that during his many years at a church in Louisville, he couldn’t really remember any particular sermon or Sunday school lesson that hit him between the eyes. All he knows is that he left that church a changed man. The Word slowly cut his heart the way water cut the Grand Canyon. If you are faithfully exposed to excellent teaching, trust that it it’s slowly doing good work in your life.
4. Carefully prepare for the Lord’s Day teaching. At MVBC we make sure you know the Sunday School texts, sermon texts, and Sunday evening texts in advance. We do this because you want you to have the opportunity to prepare in advance. A little bit of preparation goes a long way to getting a lot out of a Sunday. This isn’t a new idea. Chrysostom, a fourth-century preacher, did the same thing. He told his church, “I often tell you many days in advance the subject of what I am going to say, in order that you may take up the book in the intervening days, go over the whole passage . . . and so make your understanding more ready to learn.”
5. Pick one point, explanation, or application to focus upon. On any given Sunday you are going to take in a lot of information. Not every point will hit you forcefully or personally. That’s okay. Try to focus on one thing that you should remember. Highlight that point in your notes.
6. Carefully reflect on the Lord’s Day teaching. If you do take notes, consider using those notes to help you in your personal devotions the following week. Allot one devotion to reviewing your Sunday school notes—praying over them, asking for the Lord’s help in applying those truths to your life. The next day do the same thing with the Sunday morning sermon, than the evening message, etc. It’s amazing how much a little time reviewing will be helpful in embedding this gospel truth into your heart.
So, if I were on the top of my game, this is what I would have said to my friend who asked how he could better put the Lord’s Day to good use.
Any other ideas?