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Sunday, June 12, 2011

2007--on the word preach

     Back in December, 2010, I wrote one hundred two minute commentaries, entitled "Simple Church Minute."  At this time, I am anticipating that when the opportunity is open to air messages, I will have a five, not two, minute time limitation, which gives the opportunity to develop some ideas more thoroughly.  To that effect, below is one on the word "preach", a word whose definition today is unlike what it meant to the persons in the first century church.

  My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, the definition of “preach” is 1) to deliver a sermon, 2) to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action; specifically: to exhort in an officious or tiresome manner.  These definitions truly indicate the modern understanding of the word “preach” and also, to a degree, the negative attitude a significant segment of our society has towards what we call preaching.  Is that what the Bible means by the word?  I know—for me to bring this up implies that I’m going to say “no”, and that is correct.  Somewhere after the recording of the Scriptures, preaching became a Christian form of the equivalent of Roman oratory, a one-way form of communication.  Interestingly, if one looks at pieces of speaking in the Book of Acts and later, one can find that a speech is preceded by words like “said” or “speak”, and not preach.   This does, though, vary by translation.

          The Bible tells us Jesus preached.  What did he do?  His style of speaking was like that of the style common to Jewish culture, in that it was two-way communication.  We are fully well aware that Jesus had to tell the disciples that it was ok for children to be around him, John 3 and 4 tells of Jesus speaking one-on-one to two extremely different persons with regard to their spirits.  The Jewish religious leaders overtly came up to him to ask him tricky questions.  It was the style the rabbis had taught the people with. 

          In Acts and following, we see that preaching was sporadic, unplanned, without rhetorical structure, delivered on special occasions to deal with special problems, and was dialogue, not monologue.  A word found in the original Koine Greek that is sometimes translated preaching is dialegomai, which is obviously where we get the word dialogue from.  In the early days of the New Covenant, ministry came from all believers, and worship in the early church included teaching, exhortation, prophecy, singing, admonishment, speaking was conversational and even the teaching of local elders was normally impromptu. 

          For many years, it was something I noticed, but didn’t understand, that all the times that it seemed that the Spirit taught me the most significant things about following Jesus came through situations that were not what we in our western Christian culture consider regular worship services.  I must now say that the reason for this is that those informal gatherings of believers, whether we call it a home or cell group, Bible study, prayer meeting, or maybe even no meeting, but just believers living and working together,  outside the building walls, are more congruent with what the books of the New Covenant, that is, Acts to the end of the Bible, showed as being church than what we call church in our culture.  Conversely, our ritualistic services, and any regular way of a service that is always or almost always the same way is ritualistic, is not taught in the Word.  A regular order of worship is common for most beliefs in the world, and the Roman Empire forced buildings, paid leaders, and official structures into the church, and those structures have morphed over and over again over the centuries, An unbeliever can understand that structure, as a strong head person structure is used in government, military, and business, but God gave us, the true church, the Holy Spirit for us to follow where He wills.  When we don’t do that, we get messed up.  If there is any official titular office in the New Covenant church, it is in Colossians 1 verse 18 and Ephesians 5 verse 23, which mentions what could be a title, head of the church, which is filled by Jesus.  I believe a further indication of God’s blessing upon living informally and meeting informally as the proper way to honor Jesus in our lives is how we see the church throughout history in persecuted areas see the blessing of growth, where the organizational church in the West has forgotten the Great Commission for centuries and has tied itself up in its bureaucratic complexity, and has not seen such growth.

          You can contact me at or by phone at 757-735-xxxx.  If you wish to review what I just said, a transcript is posted at my blog,, at the entry dated June 12, 2011.  You can find out more about being church without corporate structure in this area at
          Almost all of what I said here comes from Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, “Pagan Christianity” page 88.   That, in turn, has seven footnotes for the person looking to verify the historicity of what I said.  As most bookstores in this area, Christian and secular, will not have this book on the shelf, one can obtain it quickest from or
For reference, the Greek word dialegomai appears in Acts 17:2, 17:17, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8-9, 20:7, 20:9, 24:25.  None of the other words translated “preach” imply a speech, oration, or rhetoric, either.

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