Awake, O Sleeper: What Should Preachers Do With Sleepers in their Congregation?

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Dear preachers of the gospel:

Take note: people will fall asleep at times during your sermon. 

There, now don’t you feel better?

But for many, even if this truth sinks in to one’s spirit, it still brings a number of different emotions to the preacher:  discouragement, offense, anger, revenge!  It’s easy, especially for the younger preacher, to think there is something wrong with his preaching (it may be) or that his listeners are turning pagan (they may be).  But there are some other factors!

Why do your listeners fall asleep or fight sleep?

  1. You could be boring.  Don’t be boring!  The Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and God uses it to accomplish all He desires (Isaiah 55:11-12). 
  2. They may be tired from working third shift!  So if this is the case, praise God they are at church!  And those padded pews can be awfully cozy. 
  3. They may be on medication:  I had one man apologize to me for falling asleep because of a new medication he’s on.  Don’t jump to conclusions.
  4. Your worship space may be too warm.  It should be on the cooler side at the beginning, allowing for those coming into the sanctuary to warm it up significantly, especially if you have a lot of singing. 
  5. You may be preaching over their heads or under their feet.  Both will lose people.  If you preach too basic, you’ve insulted them.  They will drift off, and possibly think, “I can sleep in my own bed more comfortably” or “I need to find a pastor and a church that won’t insult me with that pap.”  If you preach as if you are teaching a seminary classroom, they will feel discouraged (“If I were a better Christian, I’d understand this.  I’m a failure.”  That’s not good!) or roll their eyes at you (“See?  The preacher is showing off all he knows.”  That’s not good.)  Know your people.  Shepherds many times walk with their flock, not way ahead or behind. 

Any other thoughts?

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