Friday, April 09, 2010

Being word-centered doesn’t mean being sermon-centered

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.

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Steve Scott said...

Seven-fold amen. Like the one in the back of the hymnal.

Tim A said...

I would object to the thought that lecture, or one-way communication is a okay way to teach or preach for that matter. Tradition certainly assumes that "preach the Word..." = lecture the Word... but the Bible makes no such connection in the delivery of truth. The God of the Bible is never a one-way communication God. He is always a two-way communicator. There are no specific instructions in the NT for lecture, but there are many for one another oriented expression.

If the saints are led or are lured into having a higher value for expert oriented monologue (as most are), they will have little or no value for God's design of simple expression from ordinary people, even weak people through whom the Holy Spirit speaks powerfully.

My biggest objection to institutionalized teaching is that is so reduces down the concept of word or truth to information - either audible or written words. The scriptures concept of teaching or word includes action or example driven teaching. The requires mutual relationship and doing of the Word for reproductive teaching to occur. Peter tells the elders "don't lord it over the people but set an example for the flock". Example driven teaching is never considered "strong teaching" when it really the strongest by far. It is so easy to mouth the words in passionate oratory fashion but have no live example visible to others to back up prove or transfer the words from the head to the heart to the will. So much of Paul's teaching was about the example he set that was a demonstration of the words he said. Jesus said in Luke 6:40, " a student is not greater than his teacher, but when he is fully trained he will be like him." He did not say "...when he is fully trained he will speak the same words the teacher said.."

Life action is the goal of good teaching so it must be a fundamental part of the teaching.

There is a kind of information dispensing that brings temporary excitement and there is a kind of teaching that produces full reproduction of the truth into another life which also produces reproduction into another life.

Goblin said...

Hi Arthur
May I encourage you to get a copy of 'Total Church' and read it as soon as possible. I know there will be much in there you will agree with and, hopefully, much to further challenge you.
Yes, I am biased. I am part of 'The Crowded House' in the UK founded by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester and so I've experienced firsthand the outworking of the principles they describe.