Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Communication is a TWO Way Conversation

Generation after generation pastors and Christian leaders get it wrong.  They believe our only responsibility is sharing the message.  But we also have a responsibility to do our best to make sure that message is received. To be honest, this new two-way conversation is remarkably similar to the method of worship during the days of the early church.  Frank Viola and George Barna, writing in their book, Pagan Christianity:  Exploring The Roots Of Our Church Practices,  reveal some of the most common practices of worship in the early church, including:

•    Active participation and interruptions by the audience were common.
•    Prophets and priests spoke extemporaneously and out of a present burden, rather than from a set script.
•    There is no indication that Old Testament prophets or priests gave regular speeches to God’s people.  Instead, the nature of Old Testament preaching was sporadic, fluid, and open for audience participation.  Preaching in the ancient synagogue followed a similar pattern.

Wayne E. Oates, writing in Pastoral Counseling,  put it this way: “The  original proclamation of the Christian message was a two-way conversation… but when the oratorical schools of the Western world laid hold of the Christian message, they made Christian preaching something vastly different.  Oratory tended to take the place of conversation.  The greatness of the orator took the place of the astounding event of Jesus Christ.  And the dialogue between speaker and listener faded into a monologue.”

That’s not to say that preaching or proclaiming the gospel isn’t important, but it does indicate the way new technology is actually giving us the capability to recover many of the styles and ideals of the early church.  The two-way conversation that begin in Jerusalem became a one-way conversation with the influence of Greco-Roman culture; and now in the digital age, we are once-again re-discovering the power of dialogue over monologue.

Simply put, in the open world of the future, those who simply preach or teach without regard to the way the audience understands and responds may simply be ignored.


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  1. Sorry — I’m a couple weeks behind. 

    I think this blog has ENORMOUS implications for the Church. Learning styles have proven how little retention takes place when all we do is LISTEN, and not interact.

    Churches understand this implicity, because of the success of small groups.  The interaction that takes place in those smaller settings forces people to substantively wrestle with God’s truth, and then adjusts their lives accordingly.

    And yet, the Sunday morning “sermon” (monologue) remains the #1 tool in our modern tool-kit for communciation, learning, and growth.

    So, WHAT IF….Sunday morning sermon’s began to look like giant small groups?  How about hearing ten minuets of content, and then turning the chairs in a circle to talk about it?  And any number of other ways to allow people to wrestle with teaching.  Then texting in responses?  Anything to break it up, and allow people to interact.

    I’m still looking for a cutting-edge church, that may have one of the best orators in the country, to realize that Sunday morning church is the last place in our culture where we sit and listen to someone give a monologue for 45 minutes.  And don’t say education still does it, because they largely don’t. 

    So, Phil.  Great job here.  Let’s really wrestle with this one, and see what could develop.

    Rick Whitmer

  2. WOW!  No post you have ever done, Mr. Cooke has hit the mark quite like this one.  Timely and full of the right stuff at the right time!  Well done.

    I have sensed for years that the teaching/preaching grid in the U.S. is far too Euro-centric and does nothing to impact the behavior or lifestyle of those who hear.  Preaching as oratory – OH YES – but even worse it’s become so stylized – only seeming to work with those whose speaking gifts are charismatic (small “c”) – able to attract large crowds.

    Here’s an important question.  Of all the million messages we have all heard – how much do we remember – and most important how many do we apply?

    What was the teaching and preaching style of Jesus?  Was He primarily a public speaker or did He spend so much more of His time One on one (Jesus and John), One on three (Jesus with Peter, James and John), One on twelve (Jesus and the disciples) and One on seventy two.  Did He interact spontaneously with crowds, tell stories, connect with real people?

    My question to you Phil – how do we move the faith community into the technology of interactivity?  At what point do seminaries begin to teach and reclaim the engaging power of dialogue as a normal part of church life?  GREAT POST!!

  3. There are signs that churches and ministries are beginning to try new communication approaches. Religious broadcasters have wanted more efficient ways for meaningful dialogue for years, and now it’s here. May many more understand what you’re saying in this conversation and then adapt.

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