Questions about preaching

I love preaching but I rarely do it these days. The number of times I’ve preached has dropped from almost every week five years ago to just a handful of times a year.  I do sometimes miss it and I always enjoy it when afforded the opportunity.

Now I’ve read & listened to John Piper’s short defence of the place of preaching and I get it. I’d certainly get it if I could preach as well as John Piper. Glen Scrivener gives a compelling argument for preaching that raises the dead not resources the devout!

For some ditching the sermon is a first step on the road to liberalism or the pointless quest for cultural relevance. I’m not so sure it’s quite that simple.

As Ian Paul points out, for example, very little of Jesus’ teaching was done as a monologue. Most of his teaching that was recorded was done in the context of question and answer with his disciples, the crowd or his opponents.

However as Ian went on to explore abandoning the sermon in favour of a dialogue isn’t that easy. He gives a number of reasons

  1. Our buildings aren’t set up for dialogue in the way that the synagogues of Jesus’ day were.
  2. It’s hard to cast vision for a church through dialogue
  3. Doing dialogue well is harder than a sermon
  4. People expect a sermon
  5. Guests could feel awkward and exposed

So if there are questions about the monologue but dialogue isn’t the answer then what do we do? Ian Paul makes some suggestions but I wasn’t convinced that any quite had the staying power to replace a sermon.

My preaching has decreased for a number of reasons – some theological, some practical and some philosophical (relating to how we see ministry). I’ll explain tomorrow some more of how our gatherings work and some of the challenges we face. But just a final assurance in case some of you are worried: an absence in preaching is not the same as an absence from teaching or learning.


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