There’s a good discussion over at Eric’s blog “A Pilgrim’s Progress” and his post “Six Sacred Cows.” While most add “sacred cows” to Eric’s list, one commenter disagrees with Eric’s statement concerning “the sermon.”
Here is Eric’s statement:
5. The Sermon
Each week as churches across this country gather, one man will stand up in front of the assembly and “bring a message from God.” Wow. That sounds impressive. The problem is that, as we have seen before, this is not a N.T. church practice. Simply put, one-direction preaching didn’t happen in early church gatherings.
This is a massive sacred cow. If you challenge it, be ready for a not so friendly response.
When the early church gathered, we see many people sharing teachings from scripture. This may have been pastors, but maybe not. Many people taught; nobody preached – especially not a sermon like we see today.
Here is my comment and my addition to the discussion:
If we only look at 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, we see at least 7 people speaking: three speaking in tongues, at least one (possibly more) interpreting the tongues, and at least three prophesying. However, Paul also includes that others should weigh the prophecy… so that would be more than 7 people speaking. As you’ve mentioned, Paul does not tell us how many should bring psalms or teaching. Let’s assume he would use the same principles: that would mean 3 people bringing songs/psalms and 3 people teaching. So far, we’re up to at least 13 people speaking when the church meets, just from 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. That’s certainly more than I’ve seen at every church that I’ve met with (except one).
But, there’s another part of this discussion. When we say someone teaches, we usually think of lecture style teaching, which means that one person speaks and everyone else is quiet. Is that what Paul meant? Perhaps. But, perhaps not. We have several examples of Paul speaking to unbelievers. But, we don’t have many example of how Paul taught the church. There are two striking examples however.
1) In Acts 19:9, we see Paul and the disciples of Jesus leaving the synagogue to meet in the Hall of Tyrannus (not a home, by the way). It says that Paul continued “reasoning” with them (according to the ESV). This same verb is used to describe Paul’s speech among the Jews in the synagogue in Acts 19:8. What does this verb mean? Well, it has a wide range of meaning, but it is the source of our verb “dialogue”. It could mean anything from a dialogue between two people to a discussion between many, to an all out argument. In essence, the verb indicates that more than one person was taking part in the speaking.
2) Using the same verb (dialegomai, if you’re interested) Luke describes how Paul spoke to the church in Troas in both Acts 20:7 and Acts 20:9 (translated “talked” in ESV).
In both of these examples of Paul speaking to the church, a verb is used to indicate dialogue or discussion. How many people were speaking during this time? It’s hard to say.
So, just looking at these three passages, it seems clear that several people spoke (in order and without chaos) when the church met in the NT.
What do you think? When the early church met, did they meet to listen to one person speak, or did they meet to speak to and with one another – that is, many people speaking (decently and in order, of course)?