8 Reasons It’s Tough for Some Folks to Hear Us When We Preach


Not everyone listens to us when we preach, even when we’re in the same room. Here are some reasons some people struggle to listen:

  1. Something’s happened during the week that’s captured all their attention. It’s usually a difficulty, and it’s usually something that consumes their mind so much it’s tough to hear anything else. I think particularly of family and work issues.
  2. They’re typically so busy that just sitting still for any length of time—much less listening—is hard. Frankly, I’m one of those persons. I have to make myself listen, and it’s seldom easy.
  3. Distractions in the worship service have already diverted their attention. The distraction can be anything, especially as the enemy wants people not to hear the Word (see #8 below). Anything from a cold room temperature to a crackling sound system to a crying baby or a sleeping adult can turn our attention elsewhere.
  4. In some cases, we’ve hurt them in the past (or, at least that’s their perception), and they’ve never moved beyond that. They still come to church because it’s their church, but they find it hard to listen to us without remembering yesterday’s situation.
  5. Sometimes we’re boring. The problem is that we usually don’t recognize it, and few people are honest enough to tell us. They love us as their pastor. They wouldn’t want to hurt us—so they tolerate boredom but don’t listen.
  6. They’re frustrated with the music part of the worship service. In some cases, they cling to their personal preferences and create division; in other cases, the music portion of the service really isn’t good. In either case, it’s hard to redirect their attention to the preaching.
  7. We give meaty content with no application. That is, our listeners can recognize we’ve studied, and they’ll talk about how knowledgeable their preacher is—but they don’t expect to hear anything they can readily apply to their lives.
  8. Satan and his forces are snatching the Word from them. Jesus warned us that would happen (Mark 4:15). Satan’s snatching the entire time we’re sowing. For that reason, I encourage preachers to help listeners know what the enemy’s doing—and challenge them to listen more intentionally.

What reasons would you add?

Posted on October 20, 2020

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • Robin G Jordan says on

    Couples who “snog,” as the British say, i.e., kiss and caress each other amorously during the service in an obvious attempt to draw attention to themselves and to elicit a reaction from those around them. While public displays of affection are not uncommon in church, they are usually much more discreet like a hug or a peck on the cheek. This happened in a former church of mine. It was a church that met on the campus of the local state university and its major target group at the time was university students and other young adults. I was sitting in the back of the room with the tech team but the actions of the couple in question were quite visible to us as well as the attendees of the service.

  • Bob Myers says on

    Had to laugh at this one: “They’re frustrated with the music part of the worship service.”

    Yeah. Me, too. And I’m the only musician, as well as the preacher! Plus my singers on the praise team (God bless ’em) can’t carry a tune. I know my situation is rather unique. I’ve been dealing with this for over three years and I’ve had to just learn to live with it for now, always praying that God would send us good musicians.

    Thoughtful and helpful post, Chuck.


    • Robin G. Jordan says on

      Or good singers. I was a part of a church plant a number of years ago. We lost our worship pastor and only musician when he began to attend seminary full-time in preparation for graduation. Fortunately we had good singers and a good collection of worship tracks. I was the only male vocalist on our worship team after our worship pastor left. The pastor’s wife who had experience as a worship leader stepped in to take his place but she was not a musician. A church can make it without musicians but not without good singers. If you do get some good singers, I recommend that you have a spiritual gift workshop to which you invite your present singers and help them find their real gifting.