Devotionals by Chuck Swindoll

Today's Insight from Chuck Swindoll

Sunday Listening, Part One 

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 18:17-19

Most of us were born hearing well, but all of us must learn to listen well. Listening is a skill, an art that is in need of being cultivated.

Dr. Ralph Nichols, considered by many to be an authority on the subject, believes that we think four, perhaps five, times faster than we talk. This means that if a speaker utters one hundred twenty words a minute, the audience thinks at about five hundred words a minute. That difference offers a strong temptation to listeners to take mental excursions . . . to think about last night's bridge game or tomorrow's sales report or the need to get that engine tune-up before next weekend's trip to the mountains . . . then phase back into the speaker's talk.

Research at the University of Minnesota reveals that in listening to a ten-minute talk, hearers operate at only a twenty-eight percent efficiency. And the longer the talk, the less we understand, the less we track with our ears what somebody's mouth is saying. That could be downright frightening to guys like me who preach from forty to fifty minutes a crack! That also explains why some wag has described preaching as "the fine art of talking in someone else's sleep."

Good communication is tricky business. We are all busy people with heavy mental anchors dragging across our brains at every waking moment. It's hard work for any preacher to seize our attention, then hold it for an extended period of time—especially since we can think so much faster than he can talk.

Which brings up the seldom-mentioned secret of a good sermon. Aside from God's vital part in the whole thing, there are two crucial ingredients that make it happen. First, the one who speaks must speak well. Second, the one who listens must listen well. Neither is automatic. Both are hard work. I should also add that just because a Bible is open and religious words are being tossed around, there is no magical spell of sustained interest guaranteed. And difficult as it may be for us preachers to accept this, sincerity in the heart is no excuse for being dry, dull, and boring in the pulpit.

But let's think about the pew for a change. What can be done by the listener to keep the sermon interesting? Instead of thinking about how the preacher could improve, let's turn to the flip side and consider how we could improve our listening skills.

Any ideas? We'll talk about a few tomorrow.

Sincerity in the heart is no excuse for being dry, dull, and boring in the pulpit.

— Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. 

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Listen to today's broadcast of Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll at OnePlace.com.
Visit the Bible-teaching ministry of Chuck Swindoll at www.insight.org.

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About Insight For Living

Through the Insight for Living radio broadcast and worldwide Internet outreach, Chuck Swindoll's practical Bible teaching reaches every major Christian radio market in all 50 states, more than 2,100 outlets worldwide in multiple languages, and an exploding Internet podcast audience. Insight for Living also maintains offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

About Chuck Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God's Word. Since 1998, he has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck's listening audience extends far beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs in major Christian radio markets around the world, reaching people groups in languages they can understand. Chuck's extensive writing ministry has also served the body of Christ worldwide and his leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


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