Discussion-Based Preaching


I just read about how Grace Community CRC in Oak Lawn (the one hosting the service for Synod delegates) has delved into discussion-based preaching. I have just read Doug Pagitt's "Preaching re-imagined" and Christopher Ash's "The priority of preaching". You couldn't get two more widely differing views on what pastors and congregations should do regarding the preaching of God's Word.

Here's a pithy quote from Ash: "Submission (to the Word of God) is not the same thing as discussion. Discussion is comfortably in line with the spirit of the age" (p. 35) Now here's Pagitt speaking about the priesthood of all believers "...Even in the rare instances in the Bible when speeches are made, they fit into the context of a community that is in near-constant dialogue. In fact, a great deal of the spiritual formation that happens to people int eh Bible takes place outside of any sort of "church" environment. People in the Bible met God when they are walking to a neighboring village, when thy are talking with unlikely messengers, when they are in the midst of crisis. The idea, then, that only a trained professional can speak about God with any kind of authority goes against nearly everything we find in Scripture." (p.153)

I line up with Ash more than Pagitt. Bible studies and discussion groups have their place, but in the context of the worship service, the authoritative Word of God (yes, from a pulpit) cannot be replaced by a discussion, however insightful. I do not know exactly how discussion-based preaching works at Grace Community CRC. There are certainly many models out there. I would like a discussion on this topic. Maybe there is something I have overlooked. The Bible says, "Two are better than one..."

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Jeff -- I see you posted a long time ago; nevertheless, this is a trend that continues to develop -- and I agree with you; I think that the idea of discussion-based preaching misunderstands the biblical and historical idea of preaching as "proclamation."  Preaching, of course, always takes place in community.  But it is the community that sets apart some to be preachers, teachers, evangelists, etc.  The preaching ministry goes back, of course, to the Old Testament prophets who, as far as I know, did not show up among the people, and offer to lead a discussion. 


thanks for a thoughtful post.

I would have to disagree with the two of you.  I have begun a "discussion based" preaching at our evening services and the numbers have increased.   At the same time many lifelong members have asked me questions and dug into God's Word more because of it.  Those same people have also shared with me that they have heard these stories since they were children but didn't understand half of it.

I guess that what I do is a combination of sorts though.  I talk, invite questions, ask questions, and always end with a "sermonette".  There is always a point and focus to it so it isn't just information.  I have also worked on giving questions a week ahead of time so that everyone can study the passage during that week.  I have seen a great increase in excitement in reading God's Word.  And probably the best outcome of this all has been that people are talking about the passage and children are even asking their parents questions and telling their teachers about what they learned on Sunday night.  If this is bad then I have the wrong understanding of worship.

As far as changing hearts and lives I leave that up to God.  I pray that whatever form I present His Word in the Holy Spirit will move in hearts and lives.