The Silence after the Sermon

A friend of mine and I had been church-hopping for several months back in 2010 before we ended up in what we found to be the weirdest church we’d ever been to.

For starters, they sang hymns! As in, hymns! Out of hymnals! No choir, no drum kit, nothing. Just hymns. We felt out of place, like when you move to a new school.

What intrigued us though, was that this church was the first one we’d been to—and we’d been to quite a few—where they not only had a Biblical model of church government, but their worship service also was centered on expository preaching. We sat there in awe as the preacher wonderfully opened the Scriptures to us and squeezed the juice out of that Sunday’s text.

I couldn’t wait for the sermon to end so I could go talk to the pastor. Here was someone who believed what I believed, and that from the Bible!

But as I hastened to leave my seat after the sermon’s closing prayer, I was surprised by yet another peculiarity: no one was moving!

I slowly got back into my seat, totally confused! Was the service still going on? Why was everybody’s head bowed? Why wasn’t anyone making a sound? Did the pastor say something about this that I didn’t hear? What is this?!

It was later explained to us that it was the church’s tradition to maintain a few minutes of silence after the sermon. It was a time meant for the members to solemnly contemplate the message received, examine themselves in light of it, and sincerely respond in prayer to God.

What a blessing it’s been to me since, and rightly so, for those who would practice it find themselves in good company both in the Bible, and in church history.

You know the parable of the sower, right? Remember this part?

The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

β€” Mark 4:14,15

and elsewhere

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:23-25

How easy it is for the word to be snatched away by innocent greetings and general conversation about the past week and the coming one. How easy it is to put off dealing with the conviction we felt during the sermon. How easy it is to take lightly the blessing of God’s word faithfully preached and to not acknowledge that Christ himself has been ministering to us via his servants.

As James says, we will be blessed in our doing. And what a blessing it is for me and my church to have the opportunity to begin the doing immediately.

Hear the words of 17th century preacher Lewis Bayly in his monumental book, The Practice of Piety:

When the sermon is ended, beware thou depart not like the nine lepers, till, for thine instruction to saving health, thou hast returned thanks and praise to God by an after prayer, and singing of a psalm.

And when the blessing is pronounced, stand up to receive thy part therein, and hear it as if Christ himself (whose minister he is) did pronounce the same unto thee: For in this case it is true, β€œHe that heareth you heareth me,” (Luke 10:16) and the Sabbath day is blessed, because God hath appointed it to be the day wherein by the mouth of his ministers he will bless his people which hear his word and glorify his name (Numbers 6:23-27)

and

As thou returnest home, or when thou art entered into thy house, meditate a little while upon those things which thou hast heard. And as the clean beasts which chew the cud (Leviticus 11:3), so must thou bring again to thy remembrance that which thou hast heard in the church.

And then kneeling down, turn all to prayer, beseeching God to give such a blessing to those things which thou hast heard, that they may be a direction to thy life, and a consolation unto thy soul (Psalm 119:11)

What a blessing to be able to do this as a church.