Friday, October 14, 2005


When is the last time you had a really good conversation? I am not necessarily talking about a one-time conversation that had a definite start and an end; but rather, a conversation that lasted over days, weeks, months, or even years. The kind of conversation that continues to walk through life with you - sometimes making you cry, other times invoking anger, while other times comforting, and still other times inspiring great excitement and motivation? It is the kind of dialogue where we ask questions of many people, we listen to others, we sometimes offer our own perspectives, and we ruthlessly try to come to some kind of discovery of truth. Even now as I sit here in my kitchen – hungry, unshaven, and likely smelly – I am thinking through some of the major conversations that I am involved in currently and wondering how these have been infected, impacted, and eclipsed by previous, parallel, or even future (presupposed) conversations. It seems to me that the more and more open-ended conversations I have the more and more I will be able to integrate a consistent worldview that spans through all area’s of my life. What does this mean? It means that learning is slower. It means that our teachers are all around us. It means that we might be surprised, shocked, intimidated, and even offended by where, from who, or how we discover some new bit of truth.

If there is one thing that really bugs me (and there certainly are more), it is when I am “talking” with someone and they talk so fast and furious that they completely dominate the “conversation” – leaving no room for anyone else to engage. It is kind of like the annoying girlfriend that answers all the questions for her boyfriend and then answers all of her own questions too! Boring, irrelevant, annoying. Come to think of it – this sounds a lot like what preaching has become.

Could you imagine if all of your conversations followed the same method as preaching?! I would rather be trapped in a small elevator with two old people making out! It just does not work; it is not right, it feels weird, and can get very awkward for the outsiders! What would happen if every day my wife had to listen to me share a thesis with supported evidence, witty rhetoric, cute little antidotes, and application to her life? I have a suspicion that she would accuse me of not knowing or caring about who she really is and that I am on a bit of a power trip. Yet we, as preachers, consider this form of communicating God’s word to be foundational to the community of believers? How can this be? It seems like we are in some way doing an injustice to our church communities to not allow them into the communication and conversation of God’s word. I learn best in dialogue – not monologue. I think most people are the same; it is a mystery to me as to why anyone has put up with this for so long!

So what does this mean for our church communities? To be honest, I am not that sure. I would not suggest that we abandon preaching but I would suggest that maybe there are better ways to preach. The whole point and idea of preaching is to help people become more and more like Jesus, right? I am starting to formulate some ideas and thoughts of how we can be a spiritual learning community together; it involves risk, it involves involving other people, it involves macro-evolution, it involves dialogue. I am just trying to continue the conversation…


Anonymous said...

Isn't that what small groups is for? I can go to ten different churches, expiearance 10 unique styles of "preaching" and walk away from each of those edified in one form or another. From story tellers to expository preachers. Preaching is the delivery of Gods word to His people, from people that were "chosen" by Him to do so....I love going to services on Sunday and absorbing Gods word, it challenges me for the week, it allows me time to reflect on where I am in God's plan for my life....It edifies me!
Then, there is once a week when I get into my small group and get to interact with the group leader, share and express my points of view, listen to others, and then pray that each of us have learned from this.....and pray that our needs, our hurts etc are all left at the cross ,and we can carry on our walk.....
in the classroom i am lucky to have a mixture of great teachers, all of whom are open to answering questions as they arise, not just by me but others in the group...that is a different call as well....teaching
but to try and change what Christ modeled for us...I dunno?

just my ramblings for the day

jeffro said...

hmmm... like you jer, i think this has just provoked more thoughts than answers.. which makes it effective. ha. Brilliant!

contexts change communication.
i don't know if all effective learning requires conversation... however that will change demographic to demographic.


ponder ponder.

Chad said...

I agree that a lot of sermons don't really get the chance to process in peoples minds and hearts bringing change to their lives. Usually because once the sermon is over everyone is "so what's for lunch and who is it with?" I also agree with Jeff that context changes communication.

Questions that arise in my mind:
-is it effective or even possible to facilitate a conversation between several hundred people with any sense of coherency or focused thought like at a corporate gathering of the Church?
-are we creating an atmosphere/platform within the Church where spiritual conversation is nurtured as mentinoed above in small groups, web forums, classroom settings, etc.?

Maybe we should be looking at a way to faciliate conversation based on the corporate exposition and application of scripture by the pastor/teacher. We definitely need trained and competent people to open the scripture and communicate the truth to our lives. I don't believe conversation stands alone as sufficient for spiritual growth. However conversation based on the revelation of God's written Word, that which has been taught, processed, and experimented with in life, is where I believe real learning takes place.

So yeah ... how we do that or something like that is not the easiest question to answer ....

rick said...

Some interesting thoughts Jer. I think preaching should communicate the message of the text - answering this question: What is God saying to these people at this time through this text? And then, in a culturally relevant manner construct a sermon which effectively communicates the message. The objective of preaching does not parallel the objective of my daily conversations - so of course my method will be different. An effective communicator knows his/her audience, his/her objective, and will employ a method which will allow him/her to best communicate the message. I would be a very ineffective communicator if I employed one model/method of communication for all settings.

I think for most people dialogue is a preferred method of communication in small groups, but I don't think most people would prefer dialogue in a setting with several hundred people. In a practical sense, I'm not sure how to have two way communication (dialogue) with 400 people on a specific text in a 30 min. time frame on Sunday mornings. How would you do it?

Hopefully, throughout the week as people (believers and unbelievers) live their lives God's Word is being communicated and experienced through ongoing dialogue. If the Sun am preaching time is to be a dialogue between the preacher and 400 people I would think the service format would have to be radically transformed - not that that would be wrong. It could be a very interesting project, I would like to hear some of your thoughts on this.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons 'house churches' have a strong appeal to many people - it's a small group which is very conducive to a dialogue format.

Ric said...

Hey Jer! Intriguing topic, I will have to put some thought into this. I think during different times in our lives we each need different forms of teaching/preaching. I have been blessed to expierance some great "on-fire" churches in the Southern US and loved the way the congregation inter-acted with the pastor. No lengthy conversations,but after the services, which lasted close to three hours, you could tell they followed his sermon. The exciting thing was how the congregations did not rush out to do thier own things, but there were several invitations to go to the homes of various church members to carry on the worship/fellowship. When we arrived they picked up where the pastor left off, and throughout lunch, which led into dinner, everyone got to put in thier thoughts and ideas, how it was something that may or may not effect thier lives. People came and went throughout the day, and at some point the pastor made a brief visit. This was some years ago, and I have re-connected with a lot of these people, and they continue to hold true to this format.

Boomer said...

Hey Dude,
I think its an interesting thing. I myself have been thinking lately on a question proposed by Rob Bell, "Is this what God had in mind?" with reagards to church. I think preaching has been used because it is an effective way to "teach" crowds of people. Jesus used it, the apostles used it, and we have used in. I think that the teaching is the key part, but the everything else, the style is up for grabs. Whatever communicates best with and audience is the most effective. I think thats fine. We need to shrink church down to its core in order to assess what it is exactly that church needs to be, and we can equate everything else to style and or tradition. I like the way you're thinkin...wanna stay in touch...I think I'll give ya a call this week...