14 Reasons People Don’t Listen to Preaching

In almost two decades of church consulting, I’ve listened to numbers of laypersons talk about preaching. In that light, we’ve considered reasons why people don’t listen to preaching. Here are fourteen reasons, listed in no particular order.

  1. They are distracted. People come to our services with all kinds of concerns and worries. Failing finances. Wayward children. Job insecurity. Heath concerns. Family battles. And even lunch plans. It’s difficult to listen when other issues are swirling through your head.
  2. The preaching is boring. Sorry, but it’s true in some cases. People struggle listening to preachers who somehow make the gospel boring. Given our Internet access to many passionate, clear preachers, boring preachers become that much more obvious today.
  3. The proclaimer has hurt the listener in the past. Pastoral ministry is seldom easy, and preachers sometimes make mistakes that wound others. Members occasionally wrestle with forgiving, and that makes it harder to listen to the preacher when he speaks. Pain still blocks their hearing.
  4. They have sin in their life.  Listeners who are holding on to their sin are living in idolatry. Those same listeners often have no desire to hear the Word of God, even though they’re attending the service. Really hearing the Word would bring conviction.
  5. The preaching is not Word-based. More and more, we hear from believers who want to hear nothing less than the Word of God. They are not interested in the latest news, today’s sports events, or the funniest jokes. They want to hear a word from the Lord. 
  6. The preaching lacks application. We hear the comments often. “He focuses on the Bible, but he talks over our heads.” “We learn a lot, but we don’t know what to do with the Information.” Even the best Word-based preaching demands helping hearers understand how to apply truth to their lives.
  7. The people are weary. Just a quick glance through a worship center on a Sunday morning will make this point obvious. When people are asleep before the preacher ever starts speaking, you know the preacher is not the problem; a lack of rest is.
  8. The music component of worship is bad. I love preaching the Word after strong, well-done, God-centered worship through praise. When that component is disorganized, poorly done, or man-centered, though, it’s more difficult to preach. That scenario also makes it difficult to listen.
  9. They cannot hear. Literally, that is. Some listeners struggle with hearing in general. Some admit it and seek assistance, but others aren’t yet aware of their problem. At the same time, our audio systems aren’t always enough to fix these problems.
  10. They don’t understand our language well. Granted, this concern occurs less frequently, but we cannot ignore it. As God continues to bring the nations to us, churches must be aware of those attending whose native language is not English. 
  11. The preacher seems arrogant. When every illustration is about the preacher – and about the preacher’s successes or abilities – it’s difficult to see past the proclaimer to hear the Word of God.
  12. They know the preacher too well. I pray this reason seldom fits, but it does at times. When listeners hear something other than holiness and truth from the preacher’s lips on Monday, they are less inclined to listen intently on Sunday. 
  13. The enemy is fighting.  Jesus warned us that Satan would seek to snatch the Word away as soon as we sow it (Mark 4:14). He works every time we preach the Word of God. When we ignore this issue, it’s easy to blame the audience for not listening.
  14. They are non-believers. When they don’t know Jesus, listeners don’t automatically want to hear the Word of God.  

What other reasons would you add?

38 Comments

Leave a Reply