Ever listen to a boring sermon? As I preacher, I can honestly say that some sermons are more effective than others due to the preacher’s preparation and delivery. But the effectiveness of a sermon could also rest on the listener’s preparation and reception.
Preaching should explain and apply Scripture. It is a laborious work to preach; and it is a laborious work to listen and interact with a sermon. You might find Daryl Crouch’s article helpful on the listener’s preparation side, and I want to address the reception side by sharing a practical method of interacting with a sermon to allow it to be most effective in conforming you to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
I first read about the DOOR method from Adam Feldman in his book Journaling: Catalyzing Spiritual Growth Through Reflection (chapter 6). I want to share that outline, adding a few comments to each part.
When listening to a sermon, take notes! Here’s an outline you could use:
Adam says to write down the important details about the sermon preached, like the date, preacher’s name, sermon title, and Scripture reference(s). When I was preparing to officiate a funeral, I looked through the Bible of the godly woman we would remember. I was struck by how she wrote these details in the margins of her Bible. She has my name and “1st sermon at Central” by the passage I first preached there. The memories were remarkable!
I would also add that if you are listening to a sermon and these details are not easily found, especially the Scripture reference, you might want to consider if you are actually listening to preaching. Also, being able to look quickly to compare your notes when you’ve heard sermons from the same passage could be very helpful to remind you of the applications you made during those different seasons of life.
Adam recognizes that you must discipline yourself to listen for the “flow” of a sermon. Some preachers readily and easily give an outline, whether in print or verbally. I think this part of your sermon notes could help you become less distracted. You have to be intently listening in order to complete this section of notes. Listening for the outline/flow of a sermon will keep you from cherry-picking tweetable quotes without understanding the context in which they were given.
Adam points out that you should be observing three persons: yourself (What is going on inside of you as you listen? Are you open to receiving this message?), the preacher (what is he most passionate about in the sermon?), and the Holy Spirit (What is He saying to you?).
I like this reflective model of listening. It takes the main points you might list in the “outline” section of your notes a little further, setting you up for recognizing how you should be transformed by that Scripture. While Adam is right in focusing on your reactions to the message, I would say that you must be careful not to let your feelings during the sermon blind to the meaning of the biblical text.
For example, I know people who were upset after a sermon I preached it touched on a particular sin they were involved in. If they were note-taking during that sermon, they might have noted how they felt. Ultimately, they stopped coming to our worship services because they allowed their emotions to supercede Scripture. Always conform your feelings to the truth of Scripture, not the other way around.
Consider asking, “How will I apply the Word preached today in the coming days?” I like this final point because it does not allow you to leave a sermon as an academic or philosophic pursuit. The Bible is to be learned and lived!
Two common mistakes in responding is 1) being too general or 2) putting too much. If you are too general, you won’t actually do anything. Saying, “Speak encouraging words to my neighbor when I see him outside” is better than “love others more.” If you write five specific responses, you risk being overwhelmed and potentially inactive.