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.