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Friday, March 16, 2012

Simple Church Minute 3--origin of the sermon (revised)

Today is a revision (mainly adding footnotes) of one of the two minute commentaries (when read aloud) that I originally posted in December, 2010.

3—origin of the sermon
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            On another day, I mentioned that sermons, as we now know them in traditional churches, did not happen either among the Jewish people in the Old Covenant, or in the early church.  There is indication that if someone like Paul or Apollos visited a church, the visitor might speak, as Acts chapter 20 verse 7 shows Paul in Troas spoke a long time.  Still, the Bible calls in speaking, not preaching.  There is no indication that Paul’s speaking had the fine touches that a modern sermon, or even the rhetoric of his day, had.
            Where did the sermon come from?  Roman/Greek culture.  In about the fifth century b.c., history credits a group of teachers called sophists for inventing rhetoric—the art of persuasive speaking.  They taught others this skill, and delivered speeches for money.  They made a good living, as it became an entertainment form.  They were experts at debate, at using emotional appeals, and added to it by physical appearance—they came to wear special clothes to indicate their position—and by the use of cleaver language.  Over time, style, form, and skill were prized over factual accuracy.  They did not necessarily live by the ideas they spoke of.  In these ways, this sounds like some of today’s entertainers, minus music or cameras.  Some traveled and appeared from place to place, others appeared same time, same place.  Some would walk in wearing a robe called a pulpit-gown.  Some would quote the writings of Homer, and knew passages by heart.  Some would encourage the audience to clap.  Some lived at public expense, were celebrities, the stars of their day.  There were Greeks and Romans who were addicted to this type of entertainment.  After the legalization of Christianity, many orators “converted” and got a regular speaking engagement.
            You can email me at or phone me at 757-735-3639. For a transcript of what I just said, I have it on my blog, , posted on March 16, 2012.  For more info on organic church*, see or locally at .
On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.”  While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better.  I comment on that in blip 94.
Footnotes:  Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity, Present Testimony Ministry, and later, Barna/Tyndale, chapters 4 and 6.  There are further and many further footnotes there.

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