I confess that I like preaching.

I think I’m pretty gifted at it and can do a decent job. I enjoy the experience of communicating with a crowd and seeing people get inspired. In fact its quite an adrenalin rush when its really going well.

But I wonder if it is a help or a hindrance to discipleship in the church. Mark has written a provocative post here special dead movie download about this subject. Check it out and offer your thoughts.

I am still chewing on it.

Is there a place for a monologue in church? Should learning always be dialogical? Recently as I have been preaching I intentionally stopped during the sermon to allow people a chance to respond. I am aware that I ‘have the floor’ and its generally perceived as inappropriate and maybe even bad manners to chip in. I try to encourage it, but I’m still aware that the genre is intended to be that of ‘shut up and listen’, and if you do want to contribute or disagree be aware that you are up against the expert.

I also have people say to me that they find preaching inspires them more than discussion or interaction. Is that a reason to continue it?

As a preacher when you get kudos for speaking its inevitable that you would want to do it again. But what does the average punter (who doesn’t get to preach) think?

I have often said that I don’t mind going to church so long as I am the one preaching but if I had to sit there each week and listen to someone drone on for 30 minutes then I’d probably give up altogether. Fortunately my regular experience of a stock standard church involves very good preaching so I don’t struggle with that.

But what if your primary preacher is a bit boring?…or even a lot boring?… And I’m guessing there are very few gifted orators out there…

Have we overvalued preaching?flags of our fathers divx

21 thoughts on “Preaching…

  1. I’ve been “preaching” weekly in some form for 20+ years and I, like you, enjoy both the act of it (When it’s going well) and the fruit of it when people actually take the effort to practice what was preached. I live in Texas — the buckle of the Bible belt — and, as you say, it is like pulling teeth to get people to participate in more of a dialogue than a speech. That’s why I LOVE the group of guys I meet with on Wednesday nights. It’s raw & it’s real. One relatively new believer asked if it was OK to have sex on Sunday. The Pharisee in me giggled a bit at first but then the pastor in me nearly cried because here’s a guy that just wants to get off on the right foot. It creates a dilemma for me though in that it’s the “normal” church that will create the crowd to pay the bills (Self, wife, & two kids in college at the moment) but the smaller community of believers is where my heart is. we’re weighing the idea of leaving “professional ministry” to get a regular job that will pay the bills & allow us to minister from our heart instead of our wallet. BTW — I told him it was OK to have sex on Sunday — was I right?

  2. Mark’s post raised a similar response from me, but I’m still not sure what I think.

    Is preaching wrong? No, I don’t think so. We probably over emphasise it in our churches but I don’t think it’s wrong.

    Should we expect people who aren’t gifted in preaching to preach? I think that happens a lot, churches get the ‘faithful’ to preach, not necessarily those who are gifted in this communication style. That then begs another question, what happens to the traditional church meeting if there isn’t a gifted preacher there to preach?

    Let’s face it, chairs facing the front, church buildings, and the roles within the church… they all emphasise preaching and are geared to that. A Bible based church seems to mean a good chunk of the service is given over to preaching, is that strange when there’s not a precise model in the Bible for church?

    I like listening to good preachers, but I tend to download these sermons now and listen in my own time and space.

    So many questions… this probably isn’t the place, but please keep thinking and discussing I find it really useful.

    Mike… I really admire your courage to consider doing it differently, and entering into the conversation.

  3. I think we have to reinvent the whole act of preaching. This spectator sport often leaves people feeling numb. I used to encourage peole to challenge my sermons. I want them to think and engaged more. It wasnt successful as this is just not in our Western culture. I then went to a participtory sermon, this worked better.

    The real issue is “how do we effectively communicate GOD’s word”. The traditional sermon leaves us in a position of judging people and not the message. It is more important if someone is exciting rather than if they are communicating truth.

    How should we be communicating GOD’s word in that gathering of believers known as the church. I would be interested in reading the opinions of others.

  4. As a youth pastor to a small group of students (only about 20 on good nights), I love preaching interactive sermons. I think there is a place to simply deliver information, but I’m married to a teacher, and I’ve talked with other teachers, and I’ve learned that standing in front of a group of people and simply delivering information (especially w/o props or some other visual or auditory aid) is the lowest form of education, and the type to leave the least amount in the brain’s memory. In other words, people are the least likely to take anything away from the message if it’s that form of teaching. That’s not to say it’s not worthwhile, though. It’s just to say that I agree with others – I think we depend on it way too much. I’ve come to the conclusion that small groups, interactive teaching, and mentoring are much more effective. If preaching can be effectively and consciously paired with those things, then you’re using considerably more tools, and that principle of the parts as a whole being more effective than the sum of the parts…or however that saying goes. I also love the other comments here.

  5. Hmm, I’d rather listen to someone who knows a bit about what he’s talking about then sit around in a group telling each other how much we don’t know.

    On the other hand, that is also one of the benefits of a liturgical service with only a 10-15 minute homily (occasionally longer). You still get to hear scripture, and participate in psalmody, prayer, confession, communion etc and only 10-15 minutes opportunity for someone to really stuff it up. 😉

    My attitude is this: the minister has spent time in preparing a sermon, for our edification. Some will be good, bad or indifferent in either content or delivery or both. I will respect my minister and listen and try to glean what I can without expecting a $25000 a pop Speaker’s Bureau performance. Indeed, if he throws the switch to vaudeville – where the focus is drawn to the preacher as spectacle – I switch off.

    Having said that, I think there is an overemphasis on preaching and/or unrealistic expectations by both ministers and congregants in some churches and a total lack of appreciation for the ministry of the Word in others.

  6. I think that preaching can go either way. I think that it’s still entirely possible to deliver oration that doesn’t suggest that the preacher has worked out everything about the area they are preaching on and are sharing that knowledge with the unwise congregation.

    I think that if preaching is to have a future, it is in leaving questions unanswered. In presenting background, but not forcing listeners to correctly answer the rhetorical questions. But a huge number of really good discussions come about because of (usually disagreeing with) sermons – at least they do for me.

    (Disclaimer: I like preaching too)

  7. Hi Fellas – I guess the end game is that people learn and hearts & behaviour are changed.

    Does the method matter that much?

    Like Phil I download sermons to listen to because I find the mode of learning helpful.

    In 10 days I am going back to the church I preached at last week. I would like to do a test and ask who ‘did’ something as a result of the sermon last week?

    I wonder if we need ‘processing time’ for whatever we hear and if a healthy balance between knowledge and interaction is more appropriate.

    I know some people would not learn well in discussion forums, but a sermon stretches them.

    I have lived in both worlds (sermon & open forum) and I don’t think you can pick a winner either biblically of practically.

  8. Mike, I think sex on Sunday is fine so long as it’s not during church. 😛

    Seriously, this is a great question. I think preaching should be seen less as a monologue from one of the ‘elect few’ and more as a tool for learning from one another.

    A person who is ‘preaching’ on a Sunday is going to specifically delve into the verses or concept on which he/she is planning to speak. They learn. They become the expert. Then the rest of us can learn from them what they have gleaned.

    I also think it’s helpful to have some time for discussion. For example, our pastor will sometimes stop during ‘preaching’ and say (for example) “Heather, how do you think we could help you to apply that to your life?” I would try to answer. Then we would discuss it. Then we would discuss how it could be applied to others’ lives. All of a sudden half an hour has disappeared and we’ve all learnt something practical and not just sat there and let it go in one ear and out the other.

    The interactive nature of it seems to cement the concepts and scriptures in our minds. So yes, it’s still preaching – but it has a lot more of a learning focus. So far, for me anyway, I’ve learnt so much more this way than I did from years sitting in a pew.

  9. Heather

    You are right when you say “the interactive nature cements ideas”. I have found that very true in my exerience.

    I think we have to focus on getting the word of GOD out there. The method is not so important.

  10. Heather – what a great idea!!!! I will admit (I’m being honest) I am down to “Preach” this Sunday!!!! Balaam and his talking donkey – had it already prepared, but since I have the day off, I am going to rework it to make it interactive, the only interactive part up till now was the altar call!!! (just joking)

  11. The “interactive” elements follow dangerously close to the “sex in church” comments.

    I eagerly await monday’s West Australian.

  12. As a pastor who has morphed into a house church leader…I, too, love to preach. But I have found that the discussion format really helps engage people with the Scriptures and enables them to grow in grace. When someone can ask a question or share an experience, they are a lot more likely to “own it”, so to speak.

    Sermons are Scriptural, and several of them are recorded in the Bible–although I’m certain they probably didn’t flow quite like the oratory we’ve become accustomed to. But that particular method, while fine, is not the only way to present truth. I personally am more interested in what *works*, and if something else works better than sermonizing, so be it. Perhaps we are entering a season when the overuse of the sermon has damaged its effectiveness in our culture. Just speculating.

  13. Hamo, I don’t think the end result should be someone “doing something”. Nor should every sermon end with three things you must do to apply this.

    I think you are on the right track about processing time. Preaching, like everything else we do when we get together, builds on, adds to, amends, reflects on, challenges etc. whatever is already there. Which is different for every person. Consequently the reaction will be different from every person and at different times and in different contexts.

    Maybe be careful about how you “phrase” or conduct “the test”?

    I can recall sermons I heard years ago which for some reason stuck with me (indeed sometimes only a few phrases) that just now make sense and/or have only just now “embodied” in my life.

  14. For the past 6 months I have been preaching “progressively” or interactively. Something I had been wanting to experiment with for quite a few years.

    The group size is at max about 20, so this certainly helps, but so far all the feedback has been positive. Those that do comment say that they have found the get heaps more out of the interactive sermons than they were getting out of the traditional sermons.

    The main reasons cited are:

    – able to tackle mach larger slabs of scripture so it’s easier to contextualise

    – get more than one point of view (i.e. just the preachers) which adds to the learning experience.

    – the whole congregation can play a role in building the sermon.

    – retention from week to week seems to be heaps better than it was when I wasn’t preaching interactively – that may say more about me than the style tho 🙂

    So far the only real downside we’ve had is that a couple of people really, really, really, like to talk!

    We’ve even had visitors along at times who are not used to nor where expecting the interactive approach and they have all commented positively about it and were keen to join in as well.

  15. my concern with preaching is that it is so ingrained in our church gatherings that it is never questioned. Personally, i find the method to be out dated and boring alot of the time, no offence to all you preachers, i too get up there a few times a year. This form of communication has been around as the main stay for hundreds of years, yet human, particularly western communication has changed so radically in that time. TV, Movies, Internet, Mobiles, etc. all have shaped the way we learn and perceive information, yet we still preach in relatively the same way we did before all of these technologies existed.

    We often hire and fire pastors based on their ability to preach, but the effect that those 30-90 minutes of talking have on the average christian’s life is pretty limited.

  16. Perhaps we can just substitute the word Blogging for Preaching and see if people think that is as much a waste of time!

    Seriously though (you mean you weren’t serious? – Ed)surely preaching in a proper context is the issue.

    Good Bible learning is what we should be aiming for (that’s one of The Crowded House’s core values – NOT preaching, but learning) and that will vary depending on the size of the group. Our experience at TCH saw a rich variety of styles across congregations including monologue, dialogue, and a bit of both. Some sermons were polished, others were frameworks upon which the congregation was invited to build.

    The original post by Mark was a bit stereotyped in the negative. Perhaps the sermon or Bible teaching bit wasn’t the problem as much as the congregation was – a congregation which viewed the sermon as a performance or something to critique in splendid isolation.

    is there no room for the prophetic element of “Thus saith the Lord”?

  17. At least with blogging you can chose to opt out, sermons you’re trapped for 40 minutes and can’t ask the author to clarify what they mean.

    I work for a University. One of our lecturers has done a lot of research into how people learn. He will never give a whole hour lecture in one style. Every 20 minutes there’s a change of tack/style, where he attempts to re-engage the audience. 30 minutes of talking in the same way you are guaranteed to have lost most people.

    We use lectures, but also have seminars and practical sessions to help people learn. Interestingly, the seminars have a maximum group size of 24, although, I think this is partly to do with economics than learning benefits.

    The theory of the whole thing is that you are given the information in a lecture, given the opportunity to discuss it in a small group and then finally the chance to put it into practice in a practical session.

    You can also go and find a tutor during the week and say, ‘you said this, I don’t understand’. Or ‘this book says something completely different to what you claim…why?’

    I don’t think this is a perfect model, some people just can’t teach, but it’s better than our one size fits all that we get on Sunday.

  18. Steve Mc – I agree with your comment about sterotype in the negative, I must be careful when presenting bite size bits of Blog. I would say what is happening at TCH is being replicated here at the Bridge in Albany. Shalom.

  19. I guess if we see church as something we’re involved in all week and not just on Sundays then sex in church happens all the time!

    I tend to agree with Hamo in that Preaching for me was about life change or a drawing closer to relationship with God, it didn’t matter in what form that took place whether interactive or monologue.

    Jesus did both didn’t he? Sometimes you get the picture (check out the all those red letters) that he’s monologuing, other times it’s question and answer time. What is probably the bigger issue is if churches want to grow and are willing to break out of the boxes to do so and follow where the Spirit is leading

  20. I think Glenno’s onto it. Preaching has been around since at least Jesus, and probably much earlier – the scribal tradition that starting forming after Ezra in the post-exilic era. But that doesn’t mean we only have to preach, it just means don’t throw the baby out with… well, you know.

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