The following are further edited extracts from an email dialogue that I had recently with someone who wishes to remain anonymous. It followed a talk in which I questioned the privileged status given to sermons.
We seem to be talking past each other quite a bit here. I feel like I’m slipping between your subtleties and caveats, and having to write a lot of text to avoid that. But from your response I don’t see us engaging properly with each other …
I had no idea I was employing subtleties and caveats. I thought I was being rather un-subtle! Let me do an un-subtle version.
1. There is no evidence that monologue was a key or central feature of church life in the NT. Indeed there is no evidence it played any role at all in church life. There is some evidence it was used in public contexts like synagogues, courtrooms, debating fora – though these monologues would not have been like our modern sermons. What is clear is that Jesus and Paul taught believers using stories, discussion, Q&A.
2. Given that no teaching method of prescribed in the NT (though some are described), we are free to use whatever method we deem appropriate to the context. In our context we believe that is primarily discussion and story-telling with some monologue/presentational elements. We believe this method best enables the word to be learnt and practiced.
3. Some people argue that the form of sermons matches the authoritative nature of the message. This is a spurious argument. It equates authority with no being interrupted whereas a better understanding of authority would be that which is to be obeyed. Using a variety of teaching styles – including some like discussion which include direct feedback – enables us to work the word into the details of people lives. This is true authority in action.