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.
… My position is this: monologue is the normative form of primary teaching throughout the history of the church (across the dispensations), the monologue is co-existent with, supported by, and equips a rich tapestry of other forms of Word ministry.
So: I expect to find examples of other forms of Word ministry, and commands/exhortations to perform other forms of Word ministry – particularly from sermons.
… I wonder if we can identify the nub of the issue. You say: ‘My position is this: monologue is the normative form of primary teaching throughout the history of the church.’ I agree the sermon has had a privileged position throughout much of church history. But this is only true post-Constantine. Up until Constantine, the church was a gathered community of Christians meeting in homes to discuss and apply God’s word. It was only after Christianity became the official religion of the empire that monologue developed as a way of communicating to larger audiences, including many nominal Christians, seated in rows in purpose built buildings modelled on Roman auditoria and temples. Monologue will inevitably have a central place in a Christendom model of Christianity. But it will not have a privileged position in a non-Christendom (apostolic!?) model of Christianity. I wonder if the reason people react against any questioning of the sermon is that it has symbolic status. Questioning the sermon actually means questioning a Christendom model of Christianity and that is a seismic shift that many people are not yet ready to take. But it is being thrust upon us in the West whether we like or not as we become a post-Christian society.