The View From The Pulpit

April 8, 2009

Its amazing the things you see when you are preaching. Having gazed over more than a few congregations now, here are some of the high’s and lows from behind the pulpit.


Discouraging sights from the pulpit:

  • yawning and even sleeping
  • talking through the sermon
  • closed bibles
  • folded arms
  • phones being checked
  • people walking out (rejecting the message)
  • people taken ill

Encouraging sights from the pulpit:

  • bibles being examined
  • note taking
  • leaning forward with interest
  • people walking out (under conviction!)
  • tears
  • joy at the truth preached

Any additions?



  1. One thing that I haven’t seen yet but would love to witness – an outbreak of revival.

  2. I have often felt the same about folks sleeping in the sermon…however, I’m a bit more sympathetic to that, having talked with folks who are on medication that causes drowsiness & really struggled with it. I know that’s not always the case, but for some it is!

    Obviously not linked, but I’ve also found it encouraging to look at the clock & realise you have more time than you thought…discouraging is the other way round!

  3. Note taking is an interesting inclusion.
    Do other preachers here encourage it?

  4. I’m with Ben on sympathy for sleepers. I’ve known folks fall asleep at an evening service, because they’ve been up since 4 am, but still wanted to be in church. I’m not going to criticise that.


    Studying the walls, studying the ceilings, studying the floor. (but having to ask the personal and possibly painful question of one’s self –why?)


    An appropriate, audible ‘Amen’. Had a North American couple in church one Sunday, a few years back – he asked me at the door, “Do folks not say ‘Amen’ in Scotland?” Also had an audible ‘Amen’ last night, from an African brother.

    The quiet and private feedback, that says, “God addressed an issue in my heart from the Word today, which you knew nothing about”

  5. The first time I preached a teenage couple was in the very back pew kissing.
    Another time a lady was trimming her nails, it made a very distracting clipping noise.
    And of course there have been the bulletins founds later covered in doodles or notes passed back and forth between two people … of course notes are not as common with text messaging.

  6. How about adding another category- frustrating! Babies\children allowed to scream\cry\sing their way through the sermon is a personal bugbear!..

    I know MLJ didnt approve of notetaking, but I like it as it gives me the impression that people are intent on allowing the message to change the way they live after leaving the service. I know of one person who prayerfully reads his sermon notes every morning as part of his daily devotional time..

  7. Ross,
    I remember something about MLJ not approving of notetaking, but I don’t remember the source. Was it in a sermon or a book? Just curious. I personally love it when people take notes.

    Three things that bother me when I look out: (1) Shaking the head side to side (actually had a woman who disagreed with me on a regular basis by doing this along with sneering and occasionally walking out), (2) Talking, and (3) People in the habit of arriving late.

    Three things that I rejoice to see: (1) People leaning forward attentively, (2) Whole families together, and (3) Open Bibles

  8. There’s a nice thought Tim Keller shares: he likes to see people taking notes at the beginning of the sermon but never at the end!

  9. Hi Steve, after some digging it appears I was overstating MLJ’s position a little. He was however wary of notetaking, and commented on its dangers (see quotes below). Thanks for sharing the Keller thought Colin!

    “I am almost afraid sometimes for those of you who take notes, that you may just be getting the words and not the Spirit. I am not saying that you should not take notes, but I do warn you to be careful. Much more important than the words is the Spirit, the life; in Christ we are being taught, and built up in Him. So that in a sense, though you may forget the words, you will have received the life, and you go out aware of the life of God, as it were, pulsating within you.”

    MLJ, Christian Unity (Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verses 1-16) (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 114.

    “The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression… Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit.”

    From ‘Jonathan Edwards and the Crucial Importance of Revival by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’

    See http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/articles/full.asp?id=27|28|718

  10. Thanks for the clarification.

  11. […] To Encourage Or Discourage Your Pastor During His Preaching Geoffrey Thomas lists some ways in which congregation members can intentionally or unseemingly encourage or discourage their […]

  12. i once had a man, in the middle of an illustration i was giving, lean back and swing his arm (as if to say, “let’s get a move on things”). i don’t even think he realized he did it….but i noticed!

  13. […] I really wanted to thank Colin Adams for this post. […]

  14. […] your pastor from the pew 2009 April 12 by Bitsy Griffin This was an interesting read: The View From The Pulpit . Interesting comments too. I can’t say I agree with all the comments on notetaking (since I […]

  15. Discouraging:
    Reading a book (not the Bible)
    Balancing a checkbook
    A man holding his hands over his ears
    Empty pews where people ought to be there
    Frequently looking at a watch

    People leaning forward hanging on every word
    Marking or writing down notes
    Reactions that let you know their listening
    Looks of conviction

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