Here are three things to consider if you’ve ever felt like you’ve preached to deaf ears or that maybe you’ve had a pair of them yourself.
1.) Listeners have a responsibility to hide the Word in their own hearts.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” This was a choice. David not only loved, cherished and adored the law of God, he took what was there; whether written or spoken and hid it in his heart. Why? Because it’s the only way to keep from sinning; to keep from being worldly and fleshly. The more of the Word we have within us the less we have of our own sinful ways. It’s a process of displacing the dirty water with the clean and holy water of Christ’s living Word. It guards our hearts with what is true to keep us from acting upon what is false. Every believer has a great responsibility as both a listener and a disciple of Jesus to listen for the word of God and then take it to heart for usefulness and fruitfulness by the Spirit.
2.) Preacher, whatever you do, do not scratch those itching ears!
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Every preacher faces this challenge. We already know what the congregation wants to hear but it is the preachers job to feed only what is needed for spiritual growth and deeper roots in Christ. When a congregant comes to Church with a bent towards anything other than the word of God as being the primary reason for gathering, they will never be satisfied. There will be complaining and dissatisfaction. Some will air their opinions and others will stay quiet and grow bitter. In any case, though, the shepherd must be resilient to this and remain steadfast in his work. The minute a pastor gives in to itching ears he loses all momentum and the hope of what really matters ever sinking in is lost. The only way to cure the itching without actually scratching is by revealing the sin that’s causing the itch in the first place. Sin is revealed when the mirror of the word is held up. Then, the Spirit can deal with the heart and open the ear to receive what is needed.
3.) Preach the Gospel every time
There are many who have grown tired of hearing the gospel. They grew up in a church where the gospel simply meant to confess your sin when prompted, stand up when the invitation is given and walk to the front of the Church to receive forgiveness of sin. If this is the way the gospel is presented or perceived then it’s no wonder that ears are being closed to it and secondary issues are becoming primary ones. If the Gospel is only a means to salvation and not for Christian living then why listen once you are saved?
The gospel must never cease from being your main theme. It has to work into your topical messages, marriage seminars and men’s studies. It must remain the focal point of communion, the receiving of tithes and offerings and every missions message you share. It ties everything together so that the main thing remains the main thing, that apart from Him you can do nothing. If your people are confused as to why they gather each Sunday, or what makes them a body, or who they are worshiping, or what your preaching is about, then when you finally want their attention it won’t be there. I heard it said like this once. “Use your exclamation points wisely.” Show them that what you are most excited about is the Gospel and they will likely follow. Don’t exclaim illustrations and stories and only mutter the Gospel. The latter has the preeminence.
Clearly, listening and hearing are two different things altogether. So, teach your people that they have a responsibility in both the hearing and the doing of the Word. Never let their itching ears shape your messages and be sure to remain totally dependent on the Spirit of God to do the work only He can do; bringing lasting change.
Proverbs 4:1 – “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight.”