Preaching and Teaching

More thoughts from Earl & the AG Pastors:

TEACHING – why always the same teacher,
with the same linear style, the same length of time,
at the same time in the service?
can’t we have multiple teachers with multiple styles?
is the teaching the most important part of the service?
don’t get me “ready” for the message.
in scripture, the message from the Lord came first, then the response of worship.
oh yeah, and please do not give me all the answers.
I’d like to do some self discovery and discovery in community.
just put me on a path toward truth.

I am assuming the use of the word teaching here means the Sunday morning message, which some would call preaching. There are distinctions that could be made about teaching and preaching and the role of each in a community gathering.

The clergy/laity model implies that the same person brings the word of the Lord to the community every week. Inherent in that is the mentality that understanding of Scripture is best left to the professionals with a degree. Who knows what sort of chaos and heresy could occur if we allowed the Holy Spirit to be expressed amongst the common folk.

Acts 4:13 shows us that even Peter and John were ordinary guys.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

The following quote is from Len Hjalmarson at Next Reformation.

There are so MANY problems with the professionalization of ministry it’s tough to know where to start. It reinforces the artificial distinction between clergy and laity. It creates a hierarchy of experts and amateurs, disempowering the average person who does not want to compete or be compared to the professional…and subjects us to the cult of excellence.

Remember, the medium is the message. Mark Pierson once wrote, “I’m not against excellence per se, just its elevation to the level of doctrine. In fact I’m really not so much anti-excellence as pro-participation. I reckon participation is what church life should be about. Participation rather than performance, and a pursuit of excellence always, always, ends up being about performance.

If excellence is a primary goal, then the weak, the timid, the depressed, the disabled, the unskilled, the sick, the introverted, the overweight, the less attractive, the poor and the untalented aren’t going to get a look in. They’ll be relegated to being spectators for someone else’s performance.

Professionalism makes ministry about technique and knowledge, where it is actually about love, service and transformation. Finally, professionalism SUBVERTS the gospel by neglecting the foundational truth that the way UP is DOWN.

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8 thoughts on “Preaching and Teaching

  1. Good questions!
    I think it’s possible to do church organically and while still having shepherds, value the community as a whole…
    I think it is possible (at least I know we’re trying) to still have someone who is trained, gifted and called to shepherd the community, but who shepherds and teaches in such a way that the whole community is called on and encouraged to teach one another, encourage one another and develop their own gifts.
    We do this in a bunch of ways… but one thing is making room for discussion and dialogue on Sundays… Getting away from a monologue, though I still “preach” …

    anyway. Just some thoughts. My brain is toast.
    but I blogged a bit about it here: http://evergreenlife.org/2005/08/preaching-evergreen.html

  2. I thoroughly appreciate your thoughts here. In fact I was just discussing this with a friend today. I think there probably is a distinct differnece between the “one-man-band” and the Pastor-as-shepherd models.

    Fyi, the link you’re looking for is at NextReformation.

  3. Well, I’ve been MOVING for the past 7 days and I’m getting ready for bed…gotta go to church in the a.m., and I read THIS!!!! LOL – I don’t want to go to begin with…now how do you think I feel?!?! How will I NOT think about this post when the “preacher” gets up after we’ve been thoroughly prepared for him?!?!

    Oh well, I’ll go, and sit through the same talk, same old same old, etc, etc, yawn…

    I’m glad that 1 hour a week does NOT define my attitude towards or relationship with Jesus!

    GREAT questions…one’s I’ve been thinking about lately as well. Thanks for the great blogs…

  4. Great post.

    The professionalization of ministry points to the institutionalization of the Body of Christ, which I don’t think Christ intended it to be.

    I find it interesting to see Bible colleges offering degrees not just in preaching, but music, youth ministry, discipleship, etc. All aspects of ministry, not just preaching, are being professionalized, and I find it quite disturbing.

  5. Amen to what everyone is saying.

    I’ve visited Bob’s church once to observe for an article I wrote on the emerging church movement. It was refreshing. The structure of the gathering wasn’t focused on one individual, but rather the entire meeting was opened up for discussion. The guy leading the teaching that morning was definitely a teacher, and he taught effectively from the bible, but it wasn’t a lecture or a sermon. It was more of a dialogue, a discussion. I don’t really remember much of what he said as I remember what others sitting around me contributed. It was a great dynamic, drawing people together like a family, what do you think about this passage? What are your thoughts? It definitely kept it from being boring, and God only knows how many hours of boring sermons I’ve endured in twenty years! Having said that, I don’t want to conclude that this model at Evergreen is for everybody. But, it is inspiring to my imagination of the possibilities of dismantling the one-person-talking-at-you model the body of Christ is locked into.

    The spectator- orientation of Sunday morning is boring an entire generation. God is not boring. I hope and pray that these winds of discontentment and disillusionment will result in a revolution of intimacy that will lead to reformation in the body of Christ.

    (btw, Hi Bob! I know a new believer, 18y, in Hillsborrough who needs a church home. I’m hoping to bring her over to EG in the next month.)

  6. WOW!

    I have been off the computer for a week- this is GREAT STUFF!

    I have another few days of training at my new job. I want to say so much here but I really want time to digest what you are writing about and give you honest feedback.

    Love you,

  7. Bob, I agree with what you are saying. I have watched what you are doing at Evergreen with great interest. It seems that you have been able to implement needed changes within the more traditional church structure. (You probably don’t get called traditional very often.) :)I visited your forum online once, and it seems that your community is very involved and included. I am certainly not against preaching or teaching, just for looking at the ways we’ve always done it. Participation is the change I believe that is most needed.Lily, great distinction. I think that distinction begins in the heart of the leader and his understanding of his role in the community. It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for your comment.Hi Franklin. I hope you are getting settled in. You are right, there’s more to knowing Jesus than Sunday morning.

  8. David, I recently read an article that said all gatherings will eventually institutionalize, that it is inevitable. I’m thinking about the implications of that.

    Pam, thanks for sharing that. I would love the opportunity to visit or attend a place like evergreen. And I agree with your comment that one model won’t be right for everyone.

    Jane, I noticed you were MIA. I’m glad things are going well for you.

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