Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I’m privy to all sorts of “insider information” about the life of a pastor and his church. I remember the times my dad would say, “Glen was such an encouragement to me on Sunday mornings when I was preaching.” Or, “So-and-so was always difficult to preach to—she’d sit there and scowl.”

This actually surprised me. I guess I thought my dad, and pastors in general, weren’t paying much attention to individuals during a service. I figured they got up there, did their thing, and then said the benediction. Sure, I knew they got a lot of feedback—good and bad—after the sermon. But during the sermon? Really?

One time when I was in high school, my mom had to speak before a large group of women. Public speaking is not something she enjoys, and after the talk she asked me, “What did I say wrong?”

I replied, “Nothing. You did great.”

“Then why were you looking at me like that?” she asked.

She told me that I hadn’t smiled once during her talk, or given her any encouragement whatsoever. To her, it looked like I was scowling. I told her I was sorry, I hadn’t meant to. I guessed I was just listening carefully.

“Well next time, help me out,” she said.

After that, I began to pay more attention to my facial expression during services. I try to encourage the pastor and worship leader. Especially when a student is preaching for the first time, I do my best to give them positive feedback. I’m not always good at it. It’s not always possible when I have a little one in my arms, and there are certainly still Sundays when I’m distracted or my heart is not in order. And sure, there are times when I don’t understand what the pastor is saying or I don’t agree with something. But I make an effort. Maybe they don’t see me, but I suspect they do. The last thing I want to be is the woman in back with RBF.

Turns out, speakers (even pastors!) often need encouragement when they’re speaking. If your pastor is bold in preaching the Word, and you’re thankful for his faithfulness, here are five ways to strengthen him in his work.

  1. Stay awake. This may seem obvious, but it still needs to be said. Don’t sleep during a sermon. It’s rude. It’s distracting to those around you. And it’s a waste. If you’re struggling, stand up in the back.
  2. Make eye contact. There’s a reason we learn to make eye contact during a job interview. Eye contact communicates that you’re engaged. You care what the speaker is saying. The least we can do is be present and attentive. Think about how it feels when you’re speaking to someone and they won’t look at you. It’s unnerving.
  3. Silence and stow away your phone. Don’t check your notifications, or anything else. If you’re taking sermon notes on your phone, as I often do, look up often to make it clear that you’re still following the message.
  4. Open your Bible or look at the screen and follow along when Scripture is being read. It’s easy to check out when someone is reading aloud. Don’t.
  5. Nod. Smile. Say “Amen!” Give some sort of feedback that shows you care about what is being said. The more we look and act like eager students of the Word, the more we actually *are* eager students of the Word.

Let’s take our cues from the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:11, who “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily” to see whether what Paul said was true. We should have an attitude of openness and appreciation toward our pastor if he has shown himself to be trustworthy and faithful. But when we demonstrate diligence and attention, he will appreciate it all the more.

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