« The dog that didn't bark | Main | The three exes of learning: explanation »

June 28, 2007



i would agree if the sermon was always given by the same person; if the sermon was a "teaching tool"; if it was the only form of communication; if it were divorced from the rest of the liturgy. But it isn't. Isn't a sermon, in fact, like a blog post out loud? If we don't believe in proclamation, and the need to name and articulate things, and the possibiliy of putting our ideas out there for a response, then why blog? why write? why talk over dinner? sermons, understood in right context, are just one more mode of communication.

John Davies

Preachers speak to communities with whom they have spent the week listening, talking, laughing, crying, burying their dead and baptiosing their babies, living among them and feeling their fears, hurts and joys. It's not a deatached relationship and the good preacher's role is to bring all that they have learned from the people through the week into contact with scripture, in their critical presence ... and will be accountable to that community for what they say as the conversation of life goes on during and after the service and into the following week ... a conversation of many hues and types in which the sermon, I'd suggest, has a perfectly valid place. Little passivity there, I suggest.

(Sermons can be interactive conversations too, not all one way - they often are in our church)


...but Maggi, if you became aware that something you were doing was restricting another wouldn't you stop? I wonder if, in a way, that's what Romans 14 is about? (and a lot more of course).

Yes, we have the freedom to proclaim but if the proclamation is damaging to the way that church family members can learn... shouldn't we stop? And that's my point, whatever the benefits of individual sermons; in the long run the kind of relations they generate get in the way of the active learning of the church family.

I'm sure that there's a place for occasional sermons but not as a staple diet, let's turn our approach to communion to more multi-voiced, multiple perspectives and exploratory conversations.



thanks for visiting and commenting, I've enjoyed reading your own blog over the last couple of years.

... and I think that you've really caught the atmosphere of the kind of sessions I was writing about in the management course that I used to run (did you follow the link?). Yes, yes, yes bring the experience and the journey of the church family together within the context of a conversation

...but I bet you do that in your conversations during the week, there's no way in a larger group that the kind of vulnerable relating between a life and scripture can happen. it would expose the individual - that kind of enriching, encouraging, learningful (sorry for that ghastly word, just can't think of the right one at the moment ooops) will happen between prayer partners, soul friends, mentors or whatever - will rarely happen in a large group and, more often than not, in my experience the monologue will hamper it.

John Davies

Well, I sense your view of preaching is rather immovable but I beg to defend the monologue.

I've heard some great monologues in my life which have been sources of great personal strengthening and development, and as a preacher I aim to be constantly informed and influenced by their different forms and styles: from great preachers like Mike Yaconelli, Desmond Tutu; stand-up comedians who have you cry before you laugh, with recognition; performance poets whose direct artistry entertains and challenges [Ginsberg, Mitchell]; there's The Vagina Monologues and more recently The Asylum Monologues, which are immensely provocative and politically empowering...

All of these varied sorts of 'sermonising' allow a vulnerable relating between a life and a text which comes from a deep understanding of the gathered 'congregation' but doesn't expose any individual but touches nerves and sparks reactions in all present...


hmmm, John, are you sure that its ME who's immovable?

but, moving on from that unfair jibe, I recognise the value of your litany of monologues and take your point that a monologue can provide a way of opening up our 'eyes' to see things differently. So, even though I don't favour balance I'll try to be a bit more balanced now...

I wouldn't say that preaching can't be used to good effect, like you I can remember a few life changing sermons/talks. That's not my point. Rather, my experience and study of learning (especially a learning that centres on changing life-performance rather than head knowledge) just points to me that there are such problems and dangers involved in monologue.

When I was at a face-to-face university, I did give a few lectures but they had a particular role. The major focus for supporting learning was in one-to-one or few-to-few conversations. I designed the courses I ran so as to encourage conversation, testing of new ideas and group support for adventure. I expand on how this can be done in another post, rather than having a long comment.

Jonas Lundström

Caroline, I definitely agree with you. Great post! By the way, I also believe our way of preaching has weak scriptural support. 1 Kor 14:26-30 to me seams to say that everyone should contribute freely (not just singing along in songs others have decided) when the saints gather, and that the church should way and judge the words of "prophets" (not just some "inner" thing, I believe), even leaving room for interrupting the speaker in case of fresh revelations. When we see Paul and others teaching in Acts, the words used are often dialogical (is that an english word?), for exampel in Acts 21. Every member of the Messiahs body should be active in their unique way when we gather. To me, it seems that this makes most of our worship seem contrary to the teachings of the apostles.


You raise an interesting point here Jonas, without actually mentioning it... is preaching an effect of Christendom? In a way the way of doing church you mention becomes impossible when you have a large institutional gathering... you have to have some order and it will, almost naturally, become more dependent on the service organisers.. now, I'm no expert on post-christendom (where's Graham when you need him? :-) but that's got me thinking.

Jonas Lundström

Caroline, I agree, I think preaching etc is pretty much an effect of Christendom. I believe in "the fall" of the church during the fourth century, but at the same time I think the process that led to this was already on its way in the middle of the second century. At that time, the gifts of the spirit and the ministry of every believer was fading and being replaced by the power of the bishops and the hierarchy. This made the take-over of the world in the fourth century much easier.


I don't know much about that period Jonas but your account chimes with the story of the desert fathers.

What's interesting from the perspective of the Celtic traditions of church is that Bishops were far less powerful and much more evangelists, even into the 7th and 8th centuries. It's possible that the Synod of Whitby, where the Roman Church gained authority in the north of England, was more about ensuring episcopal political authority in the Roman manner.

The comments to this entry are closed.

June 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        
Blog powered by Typepad