I am lifting a quote from a book I haven’t read, reproduced on someone else’s blog and I ain’t apologizing for it! It is such an excellent quote that it deserves to be widely reproduced and discussed. So with apologies to Alan Knox, here is the quote from “ Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community”.
All too often people equate being word-centered with being sermon-centered. People argue for sermons by arguing for the centrality of God’s word, assuming that the word and the sermon are synonymous in Christian practice. It assumes God’s word can only be taught through sermons. Or people assume that the alternative to sermons is anarchy or relativism with no place for the Spirit-gifted teacher of God’s word, as if Spirit-gifted teachers can only exercise their gift through forty-five-minute monologues.
But our concern is not to reject the sermon. Monologue continues to have its place as one of the ways in which the Bible can and should be taught. It stands alongside other complementary methods such as dialogue and discussion. Being word-centered is not less than being sermon-centered. Our contention is that being word-centered is so much more than being sermon-centered. (pg 114)
How excellent is that!?
I think there is a place for prepared, monologue teaching in the church. Sometimes it is the appropriate method, provided that the same person is not doing the monologue every week, that the monologue is not the only method of teaching utilized and that the entire body gets the chance to discuss what was taught. So I am not “anti-sermon” as much as I am “pro-every member priesthood”. I think the best two sentences from that quote are:
“Being word-centered is not less than being sermon-centered. Our contention is that being word-centered is so much more than being sermon-centered.”
This has been an area of real shift for me. I was a big advocate of more sermons and longer sermons (as long as they were expository sermons). My view now is that the week after week monologue by the same person week after week is unhealthy for the preacher and unhealthy for the congregation. An overemphasis on the sermon leads to pastoral burnout, pastoral pride, apathy in much of the local body and a view of the church that is focused on ritual instead of community. We need more teaching in the church, that is true, but we need not just more but better teaching and that means more people being involved in the teaching beyond listening and more teaching that puts action to the words.