Preaching: Monologue or Dialogue?

Following up on yesterday’s post about preaching and congregational response, here are a couple of articles from the latest 9Marks Newsletter about a different but related subject: conversational preaching, a newer approach where the preacher and congregation actually participate in dialogue during the message.

  • 9Marks Pastors’ and Theologians’ Forum
    “Must the sermon be a monologue? If not, should it be? In other words, does the Bible allow for some type of back and forth conversation (like Q&A) to characterize the regular style of the main exposition of Scripture in a congregation? If it does, is it pastorally prudent?” Answers from: Ajith Fernando, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Kevin Smith, Derek Thomas.
  • A Conversational Approach: Will it Preach?, by Mike Gilbart-Smith.
    “I shall spend the rest of this article examining the different ideas people are proposing when they recommend “conversational preaching.” Some proposals are commendable. Others are reactions to genuine problems in some preaching today, but are nonetheless unhealthy reactions. Still others demonstrate a failure to grasp the nature of the Word of God and the authority of the gospel.”

And here is an article about a preacher who used text messaging with a younger audience as a way for his listeners to respond during the sermon.

  • Text Meets Text: Preaching with Real Time Feedback
    “I had an amazing experience last week while preaching the North Central University chapel with about 800 millennials in the house. At the beginning of the talk, I announced my cell number and asked them to text me while I was speaking with comments on the presentation.”

I am all for having a conversation about the message. In fact, we host a discussion of the morning’s message right after the service every Sunday. And I think the “text messaging” was a neat idea – as long as it helped people to focus on “the message of the text!” I enjoy dialogue in teaching and small group settings. But I am uncomfortable with making the actual preaching event itself a dialogue. This seems to change preaching from a proclamation of God’s Word into something else. What do you think?

7 Comments

  1. Sharon Gamble says:

    I recently attended my daughter’s church, where the pastor spoke for twenty minutes, sitting on a stool, while we all sat at round tables. Then, he put questions up on the screen and had us all discuss the sermon at our round tables. It was fun and helped us to apply what we learned. I still wanted the twenty minutes of listening to someone who had prepared a message first, though! My only concern with the round table format, is that there didn’t seem to be a discussion leader at each table. What happens if the table has someone at it who leads everyone to an unbiblical point of view? I think I would modify the idea to include table leaders, to make sure the conversation stayed on track and faithful to the Word. Otherwise, it was kind of an interesting “twist”, and certainly made sure the sermon was thought about and discussed.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Last fall we arrived on Sunday morning to find our auditorium flooded out and unuseable. So, we set up the sound system in the cafeteria instead. People sat at the round tables sipping their coffee, and we had what we called our “Starbucks” service. It was fun for a change of pace, but I think everyone was glad to get back into the auditorium again the following week.

  3. Bethany says:

    I like the idea of being able to discuss the sermon, as it helps solidify your thoughts/questions that come up while the pastor is preaching. We’ve done this at our church sometimes in a different format. Pastor Phil preaches his 30-40 minute prepared message. Then, for adult Sunday School we have a group discussion about the message. We start as one large group for general comments, then break into small groups with a group leader (as Sharon recommended, this does help keep the conversation on track). I’ve enjoyed this and hope we do it again!

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    I agree with having some type of discussion after the message. This is a valuable part of our Sunday mornings together as a church, and our guests uusally find it interesting as well. I am still wondering what people think of an actual conversational sermon – a sermon that is more of a dialogue or conversation than the straight ahead presentation of God’s Word that we are probably more used to. Has anyone here ever heard a dialogue sermon? What did you think?

  5. Sharon Gamble says:

    After thinking it over, I definitely want the preaching to be a monologue. I want to hear an uninterrupted train of thought about a specific portion of Scripture, unclouded by other’s thoughts and ideas that may or may not be on target. I like the idea of discussion and application later, but think that a dialogue during the sermon would not be the best way for me to understand the subject matter. Of course, a good preacher tells stories that apply, uses great examples, and keeps me focused. 🙂 But as a good listener, I also have to come with my heart prepared to learn and my body rested to receive it.

  6. Margaret says:

    I found the comments interesting, re: comments or not during a sermon. I definitely would prefer no comments until after the sermon. Based on our local Bible Study Group, we sometimes get completely off on another subject during discussion! This can be helpful to a certain extent, but only if it serves the purpose of the discussion.

    I think it would be distracting for everybody, and especially the Pastor, to have comments during the sermon.
    Can you imagine the preacher trying to get back on track without offending someone?! I guess I like the traditional message, everyone quietly listening and learning.

  7. Barrie says:

    Ray,

    I think a dialogue would be a way to reach some congregations but I would have to agree that I would not prefer that mode of communication in a regular church service. I have visited your church and think that the mode that you employ with the sermon discussion after the service is quite effective and a great fellowship experience for a first time visitor to your church.

    Barrie

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