Two years ago, I wrote a two part series on the use of monologue (one person speaking) and dialogue (multiple people speaking) when the church meets. The first post was called “Monologue and Dialogue – defining the question.” I will post the second part of this series tomorrow.
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 dialogue 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 dialogue. We can teach people how to live a life “worthy of the gospel” with either monologue or dialogue. Thus, preferring dialogue 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 dialogue. More importantly – and the purpose of this two-part series – I think it is important to determine if either monologue or dialogue is commanded or modeled 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, dialogue, 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)
Dialogue: 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 dialogue, 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 traditional 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, dialogue, a combination, or something else is either commanded or modelled.