the weblog of Alan Knox

Preaching and Teaching in the New Testament was interactive… but do we care?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in blog links, discipleship | 14 comments

Preaching and Teaching in the New Testament was interactive… but do we care?

Jon at “Jon’s Journey” linked to two interesting posts that considered the methods of preaching and teaching in the Gospels and in Acts – that is, when Jesus was preaching or teaching and when his followers were preaching and teaching. Jon summarized the findings in his post “Interactive Teaching in the New Testament.”

Jon (and the original author of the posts) separate preaching and teaching examples from the New Testament into several nonexclusive categories:

  • Unclear as to interaction
  • Non-interactive
  • Initiated by others
  • Dialogue
  • Includes action events

Interestingly, the original author began this study by searching for scriptural defenses and methods of preaching. His conclusions were not what he expected.

In fact, he found that most preaching/teaching examples in the New Testament included some type of interaction.

I suspect (although I haven’t done a formal study) that if the examples of preaching/teaching unbelievers and believers were separated, those involving only believers (i.e., the church) would include an even greater percentage of interaction.

But, I wonder… even given this evidence from the New Testament and even given the studies that show most people do not learn or grow through monologue preaching… will people even care? Is the modern method of monologue preaching and teaching in the church so ingrained that it cannot be changed?

It can be changed. I know from example and experience. But the question remains: Will people care?


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

  1. 4-10-2012

    Will people care? I hope so but I fear not. I’ve been having conversations about this with several friends over the last couple of years. But even when people see the lack of New Testament examples of preaching and acknowledge the fact that other types of teaching / training are usually done without much lecturing, they still seem attached to the principle of the weekly sermon.

    It seems most people can’t break free from the tradition of having a weekly sermon, and for some it goes even further – some folks see the sermon as an act of worship that is somehow in its own category, superior to all the other things we do when we gather together as Christians. (Obviously, this is ignoring the argument about everything we do in every aspect of life supposedly being an act of worship!)

  2. 4-10-2012


    I keep writing about these issues hoping that more and more people will take notice and consider what the New Testament models and teaches concerning this. Yes, if everything we do is worship – when submitted to God – then the person “preaching” is worshiping. But, then again, the other people who would speak if allowed to would be worshiping as well.


  3. 4-10-2012

    Oh, I wasn’t meaning to defend preaching / sermon-giving as a uniquely worshipful activity! I’d love it if more time in church meetings was spent teaching and learning on an interactive basis, with less spent on listening to a monologue.

  4. 4-10-2012


    Yes, I understood. I was just adding to what you said in your comment.


  5. 4-10-2012

    The tradition of ‘monologue preaching’ is so ingrained, it’s become the main thing a church looks for in a pastor: the ability to give a good sermon.

    Some years ago I saw in Ezekiel 34 what being a pastor is really all about. So when our church was without a pastor, we asked God for someone with good shepherding gifts rather than good preaching skills. He answered our prayers and we’re growing much stronger spiritually.

    I haven’t done any in-depth study on this myself, but it seems to me New Testament ‘preaching’ from Pentecost on was *usually* done outside of a church environment and directed unbelievers, while teaching was was directed inwards the church. I see both biblical preaching and teaching as interactive, not lecture or oratory.

  6. 4-10-2012


    I have been frustrated recently with people’s verbal acknowledgment of these facts concerning the assembly of the church: Acts 20:7 is dialogue and 1 Cor. 14:26-33 specifically states that 2 or 3 prophets should speak, even to the point that the one speaking should stop and allow another to speak. I have approached people with these Scriptures and blogged about it myself to no avail. The status quo of institutionalism with its “sacred cow” sermon, as Frank Viola terms it, is probably the most stagnating and growth inhibiting, not to mention unwise practice of the modern church, IMHO. Thanks for writing about this. It is a great encouragement to me since most people aren’t willing to do a thing about it.

  7. 4-10-2012

    I have considered what we have in traditional churches for some time now. Alan as you know, my conclusion is that nothing will change until we stop attempting to reform and redefine “church” but, end “church”. Nothing will change on any significant scale until we stand up and say “Church was not God’s Idea.” Not the word/name, not the separate clergy, not the pulpits, the steeples, the dressing up, not the paid professionals (dare say I go on?)Until we are willing to say, this whole “church” deal is an imposter, masquerading as the ekklesia of Christ, we are just playing around the edges of the real problem.

  8. 4-10-2012

    Now what we are really afraid of: This (ending church)will cause a division, all of the people (brothers and sisters or not) will have to decide, do I stay in this comfortable but non-Christ authored imposter, or not?

  9. 4-10-2012


    I agree that preaching in the New Testament referred to proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers.


    Our group transitioned from sermon/preaching to interactive teaching. It is possible. Keep encouraging people to consider those passages of Scripture.


    Changing the terms will not change the practices. In my understanding of church (ekklesia), we are God’s idea and God’s family. We don’t have to worry about church (ekklesia) ending. Jesus promised that it would not. If you are using the term “church” to refer to something other than the people of God, then you’re talking about something else – something that I’m not talking about. Do you have anything to add to this discussion of interactive preaching/teaching in the New Testament?


  10. 4-18-2012


    Sad, but I don’t believe people do care. The sermon serves the purpose of providing an emotional experience for some, guilt for others.

    Not many want to meet in authentic church life like they did in the New Testament. It takes too much commitment and too much pouring out of oneself. So instead folks settle for a cheap substitute (the organized church) that provides little life and doesn’t establish what Jesus wanted (a bride to himself).

    Keep your blogging, but more importantly seeking out Jesus corporately together with your brothers and sisters.

  11. 4-19-2012


    For the most part, you are probably right, unfortunately. I’ve learned that there are some who care and are learning to teach and help one another in more relational ways.


  12. 9-19-2012

    I have been both in IC churches for years and then in HC for years. HC strengths are their ability to disciple. IC strengths are preaching. Most HC people tend to “preach,” whether on the net or in person, more about how much the IC is doing wrong than the Gospel. I find this sad. While the IC church is threaten by their “rebukes.” Some justified, some not, I feel. Public preaching I feel has a place in the Body of Christ. The problem, as mentioned above, is when the IC doesn’t allow believers to be discipled (in HC) to grow up. I think it would be more effective to show them how to have a place in the Body of Christ than have NO PLACE. EVEN IF IT ISN’T PERFECT God’s grace is sufficient. I think many just feel disvalued and displaced… This is wrong for any believer to do this to another. I liken public places of worship to Temples in the Old Testament. People went to those places to “find God” and they still do it today… At least, they can accept Christ in many of them today. The Bible says that Paul and many other believers hung out in these kinds of places because the culture tended to go to places like this to “look for God.” We don’t have to agree with this or like it, but it still is the way things are. My kids do a lot of things I don’t particularly like but I love them through it. Thank God he met me at one of these places when I was looking for him! Thank God that Jesus left heaven and came down to earth looking for me! I just wonder sometime if we spent as much energy getting over our bitterness of some of this stuff if we would just get on preaching the Gospel? I’m guilty too… I don’t know… Maybe I’m just rambling today…

  13. 9-28-2012

    I’m not completely convinced that interactive ministry should be considered the norm. Should we consider an opportunity at the end of a sermon for comments, questions, observations to be sufficient to qualify a sermon ad interactive?
    I cultivate and strongly promote interaction in the groups to which I minister. My observation is that as the group grows in size…the interaction diminishes. I guess that’s to be expected. Do we then scrap larger groups? Also, any group larger than about a dozen will have a few participants and numerous passengers/observers.
    Idealism can sometimes be unhelpful.

  14. 9-28-2012


    Yes, God’s grace is sufficient, and he often works through our efforts.


    For me, the question is whether or not the NT demonstrates, encourages, and/or commands interactive ministry or not. If so, then whether we think something is better or not in any given context become much less important.