Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Importance of Dialogue.

I want to preface this by saying that this post isn't meant to disparage sermons. In fact, I enjoy them quite a bit. I have a handful of teachers that I regularly keep up with, and new ones come to my attention from time to time. My brain doesn't have a shut off button, so I like to have something to meditate on.

However, sermons can only do so much. They are insufficient for spiritual growth. It's a common lament for pastors to say that people tell them "Good word" after a sermon, but within their congregation they see little spiritual growth and transformation. Some might say that what is preached must be put into practice, and this is at the core of the problem. The word is being preached, but people just aren't applying it to their lives.

While I don't deny that there needs to be application to what we learn, I have come to believe that the modern sermon is not what the new testament teaches as our primary method of learning. I don't think we are to be gathering and receiving a monologue from a single speaker. When Jesus or his disciples preached they were interrupted with questions. They asked questions of others, and they weren't rhetorical. It was a dialogue.

I think that is at the root for this spiritual stagnation. The church is described in scripture as members of a body. What happens to a body that is being fed, but only a few of it's members are active? What if the only the mouth and the organs responsible for digestion were in use, and the rest of the body was all but immobile? The way the modern church functions in it's gatherings, the body is functionally bed ridden.

In the book "Pagan Christianity," the point was made that many of what was discussed in the epistles makes no sense in our modern services. For example, Paul gives instructions to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:26-33) about their meetings:

"26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace."

 For one, no one would think of interrupting during most church gatherings. In fact, most will get the stink eye if they attempt to say something to another member during "the message," even if it is for their edification. Secondly, how many churches encourage their members to bring something to the meetings like Paul describes here?

Most of time members are really only permitted to speak and share before and after services, or during small groups and events. This begs the question: if sermons aren't sufficient for spiritual growth, then why does most of the time, effort and resources go towards the building and the staff that put on the services in which the sermon is preached?

Again, I don't mean to disparage sermons, but in a time when people's free time is limited, I think the body of Christ would be better built up if our meetings allowed everyone to function instead of mostly observing. I think there is a time and a place for sermons, but I don't think we should center our meetings around it.

Technology makes sermons readily. I listen to several a week, usually once a day. I value them, but most would agree that the church needs to "wake up," and we can't do this if we're being trained to be "lay still."

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