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Monologue and Dialog – defining the question

Posted by on Feb 2, 2009 in discipleship, gathering | 6 comments

Last week, in my post “On the Sermon“, I linked to a post called “How We Do Church: To Preach or Not to Preach?” in which the author (Michael) suggested that monologue was less effective than discussion in helping people toward maturity. I said very little in the post itself, and simple asked this question:

So, what do you think? Which is more effective in helping people grow toward maturity in Christ: monologue, dialogue, a combination, something else?

I was very specific in the way that I asked my question. I did not ask about the effectiveness of preaching as opposed to teaching. But, during the discussion, while some suggested that both monologue and dialog were good and necessary in some contexts, it seems that most wanted to argue for either “preaching” or “discussion”.

I think this is a false dichotomy, primarily because Scripture does not define “preaching” or “teaching” for us in those terms. Thus, we can proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ (“preach”) with either monologue or dialog. We can teach people how to live a life “worthy of the gospel” with either monologue or dialog. Thus, preferring dialog is not the same thing as denying the necessity or effectiveness of either preaching or teaching.

Instead, I think it would be beneficial to consider the effectiveness of either monologue or dialog. More importantly – and the purpose of this two-part series – I think it is important to determine if either monologue or dialog is commanded or modelled by the New Testament. In particular, my concern is the context of the church meeting. When the church meets together, do the New Testament authors either command or model monologue, dialog, a combination, or something else?

Let’s start with a couple of definitions so that we are all talking about the same thing. These are the definitions that I will use in these two posts (I’ve included links to the sources of the definitions):

Monologue: a long utterance by one person (especially one that prevents others from participating in the conversation)

Dialog: a reciprocal conversation between two or more entities

The distinction between the two terms is very important. In a monologue, only one person speaks, while all others listen to what is said. Other are not allowed to speak (by either explicit or implicit agreement). In a dialog, more than one person speaks or has the freedom to speak. Others are allowed to speak (again by either explicit or implicit agreement), even if one person speaks for most of the time, or even if others choose not to speak.

It is not my desire to question the monologue sermon simply because I want to question tradtional practices. I am not opposed to traditional practices if they are scriptural. I am opposed to traditional practices if they are contrary to Scripture or if they hinder the church from growing toward maturity as described in Scripture. I am also opposed to innovative practices if they are contrary to Scripture or if they hinder the church from growing toward maturity as described in Scripture.

Thus, my primary goal in examining the way believers should speak during the church meeting (as well as other practices that occur during the church meeting) is to see the church – all believers – grow in maturity toward Christ-likeness.

My purpose in the next post is to consider passages from Scripture in which one or more than one person speaks while the believers are meeting together in order to determine if monologue, dialog, a combination, or something else is either commanded or modelled.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-2-2009

    I think there are times when one method is more appropriate than another. There are times of teaching when it needs to be monologue, where dialogue may be too disruptive given time and space considerations.

    All in all, I believe dialogue more effective, learning grows in a give and take environment. But sometimes we all just need to shut our pie holes and just listen.

  2. 2-2-2009

    Does the NT ever use the term “preaching” in the context of the gathering of believers?

  3. 2-2-2009

    Just my observations (which by nature are incomplete, since I have not observed every possible event and situation): I have seen monologue used primarily in two settings:
    1) The speaker thinks that too many people are present to effectively dialog
    2) The speaker does not wish to dialog, even if only one or two other people are present. This often means that he thinks he has a corner on the truth and/or does not want to be challenged or allow someone else to reveal that they have additional info or insight.

    Dialog is not always the ideal. Indeed, due to the number of people present, time constraints, and the expertise level of the speaker, monologue may be the best choice. Sometimes, however, dialog may be used as an attempt to disguise lack of preparation or lack of knowledge on the part of the leader/speaker.

  4. 2-2-2009


    I totally agree with your observation concerning tradition and scripture. However, I would suggest that the sermon is a symptom of a greater issue or problem.

    If we address the issue of what does the bible say should happen when the saints gather, then I think the sermon would be a mute point. I believe much of the problems come from our misguided belief in the paid professional priesthood.

    Now this does not go over well with the many fine men who occupy those positions. However, we must seek the truth, and not let traditions hinder us. I really feel the Lord is bringing the His body back full circle. I am meeting believers from all over who are wanting to get back to the basics of just simple church life, and reaching the lost.

  5. 2-2-2009

    Thanks for your comments everyone. I think we’ll be able to discuss monologue vs. dialog and the reasons in my next post coming tomorrow. But, what do you think about my definitions and my goal in this series? What do you think about the difference between monologue vs. dialog instead of preaching vs. dialog/discussion?


  6. 2-2-2009


    I believe your definitions to be honest. I can’t wait to get into the fruitfulness of either tomorrow.


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