My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute. According to the National Teaching Laboratories in Bethel, Maine: we retain 5% of what we hear in a lecture, 10% of what we read, 50% of what we discuss with others, and 90% of what we teach others. I think the exact percentages of that statement would be impossible to prove, but the general idea is clear—the more involved we are, the more we learn. If that is the case, why do traditional churches rely so heavily on lecture? Particularly, when First Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 11 tells us to edify, or build up, one another, and that’s next to impossible with only one or two persons doing the lion’s share of the communication.
In the days of the Old Covenant, prophets spoke intermittently. False prophets also spoke. The people were involved, and were able to interrupt and ask questions. In many cases, the people did not accept the true prophets, and accepted the false prophets. Since the people of
was an ethnicity, there was degree to which the king was also a spiritual leader, in addition to the priests and prophets, sometimes for good, more often for ill. Prophets and priests did not speak from a script, but spoke from the burden of their heart. Rarely, the prophet acted out his message. There was no regular preaching in the synagogue that was like the modern sermon. Israel
When Jesus announced his being the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 61, as recorded in Luke 4, his being allowed to speak was because it was a tradition that all Jewish males were allowed to take a turn at speaking. When Jesus began his ministry, he also did not speak regularly to the same audience, although he taught in various ways the disciples that were with him those three years, and probably taught, to a lesser degree, the seventy who he sent out in Luke 10. His teaching took many forms, but what we have recorded is sporatic, spontaneous, informal, and oftentimes in the form of back and forth dialogue, even the trick questions of the religious leaders. It was consistent with the tradition of the day, except that Jesus allowed women to listen to what he said, which the rabbis did not. When one looks at the book of Acts, we see teaching that was sporatic, a dialogue, allowing for interruption and feedback, unplanned, without rhetorical structure, and delivered on special occasions to deal with special problems. Romans 12 and 15, Colossians 3, and First Corinthians 12 and 14 indicate that ministry was by all the church for all the church. History shows that in that day what Paul and others meant by preaching was dialogue, and monologues, as exemplified by Roman-style oratory, was referred to the Bible by “speaking” or “spoke.”
After the Roman Emperor’s quote unquote conversion, by the economic power of the Empire, the pagan tradition of speechmaking solidified as a practice in the church. Many persons, male only, as it was a male dominated society, some with an honest desire to serve God, and probably a few not so much, as the government whether intentionally or not created regular gigs for orators, prompted the tradition.
Whether one is right or wrong, for many of us it feels good to have others just stop everything and listen to us. This works even more if they are friendly people, who won’t criticize us in public, or at all, without regard to how off track we get, and we all make mistakes. Every person needs another person to speak words of correction in one’s life, which we know is doing so for our benefit. That is what dictators do not do; only God is right all the time. In our culture, many sermons do not get above new believer level. Lastly, edifying each other works only when a group is far smaller than our culture’s traditional churches, many of which are so big no one knows everyone’s name, much less actually know all the other people.