Who hasn’t heard and thought about the question . . .
“If a tree falls in a forest and
no one is around to hear it,
does it make a sound?”
That is a philosophical question involving the definition of “a sound.” If “a sound” is the movement of air molecules (compression waves), then the answer is yes. If “a sound” requires that those air vibrations reach and vibrate an eardrum (compression waves + an eardrum, AND brain signal), then the answer is no. However, there are a lot of animals in a forest who still would have heard that “sound.”
Nevertheless, being less philosophical or technical, there are some very real and practical implications of that question regarding speaking and preaching. If you preach, and no one is actually listening to what you are saying, have you preached a sermon?
“Not Listening” can be the result of at least three factors (others may flow from these three) . . . .
- Distractions — Created by the audio/video team (all too common), other people ( who walk down the middle aisle and across the front, to a seat on the far side), one’ children, and/or personal concerns (which are not even close to being addressed nor any hopes of it being addressed.). The environment before and midst the sermon affects what is heard.
. . . . . . .
- Poor Preaching — While some would like to call up the ministry of the Holy Spirit to justify “mediocre-to-poor-to-terrible-to boring” preaching, such a hope is fiction. The Holy Spirit’s work does not include the miracle of taking the boring and turning it into the absorbing. Even those preachers who take such a flawed position have “listened to” and attest to the fact that preachers can be “mediocre-to-terrible.” “Apt to teach” means that there are those who are “not apt to teach.”
. . . . . . .
- Walking Your Talk — Yes, there are no “perfect” pastors or churches. Those kinds of statements are “straw-man” arguments. Of course, there is no perfect anything (except our Lord). Nevertheless, some speakers and preachers lack credibility and therefore turn off the ears of those listening. We see that all the time in our culture and society today. Whether it be hypocrisy, obvious inconsistency, known self-serving actions, decisions, or personal failure as a husband-father, all muffle and deaden any words from being heard. That is why there are qualifications for being in ministry, and we all know that!
Far beyond the “environment,” the lives, actions, decisions, ministry practices, and lifestyle choices can render the preacher-speaker’s words as dead as the sound of a tree falling in the woods.
If while preaching, no one is around who is listening,
does it mean you have actually preached a sermon?