Charles Spurgeon once said:
We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.
As every Sunday draws nearer, the pressure on the preacher escalates. Each week the preacher is tasked with delivering a message, one that will fall under the examination and expectation of the hearers. With such importance placed on the Word of God and the man expounding upon it, has there been an oversight on the responsibility of the hearer?
While answering this question, author Ken Ramey takes readers on an unexpected journey through a biblical theology of hearing in his highly praised book, Expository Listening. Ramey’s in-depth treatment of such a question makes the book a powerful study on a rarely talked about subject. Not denying that the preacher must be prepared every Sunday, he asserts with great conviction the need for the hearer to be prepared every Sunday also. It is this conviction that will transform a person’s view of church attendance.
It is clear that Expository Listening is not merely another book attempting to create another author. It is a book intensely focused on the growth and development of the Christian. With the authority of Scripture so clearly magnified and used throughout, the author doesn’t merely tell readers they need to do something. Instead, he provides a foundational view of the need to be diligent and discerning hearers and follows it with practical tips on how to fulfill our role of learning. He even includes study questions at the end of each chapter, making it ideal for a small group study.
Perhaps the greatest downfall of the author’s writing is simply the organization of the book. He asserts points at the beginning, but does not provide the proof of those points until later chapters. Most notably, he equates hearing the Word with obedience to the Word from the outset. However, it is not until the end of the book that he explains how and why this is biblically appropriate. Nevertheless, he does eventually make the right case for his arguments and thus provides readers with a gold mine of information (and perspective) in a short amount of space.
To read the book requires very little investment of time (it is only 128 pages, including endnotes and bibliography) and yet the reward will be manifested beyond one’s expectations. However, it is a book that requires action upon conviction. Ramey expresses his desire to create congregations who have a passion to honor God “by being discerning hearers of His Word, diligent doers of His Word, and devoted lovers of His Word.” Will these words be used to describe you after reading this book? That is God’s work alone in your life, but God could certainly use this book to help accomplish that goal.