About five years ago, I wrote a post called “Dialog during the meeting of the church.” At that time, I was just beginning to study and explore what the New Testament authors wrote about the church as the believers gathered together. The more I studied, the more I recognized that what they described looks completely different than the way believers typically gather together today. For example, even their methods of teaching were different, relying primarily on dialog instead of monologue. This post begins to explore some of these descriptions and the questions raised by those passages.
Many times, when considering the concept of speaking or teaching within the context of the meeting of the church, believers focus on the exhortation of Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word!” We have our modern definitions of preaching – too many to mention here – and our modern methods of preaching – again, too many to mention. But, I’ve read very few studies from a scriptural perspective into how believers actually spoke to one another or taught one another when the church gathered together.
There are two Greek verbs that are usually translated “preach” in English translations of the New Testament: κηρύσσω (kerusso) which means “to announce or proclaim aloud” and εὐαγγελίζομαι (euangelizomai) which means “to bring or announce good news”. Interestingly, in spite of the fact that these verbs and the nouns associated with them are used many times in the New Testament, there are very few occurrences (if any) where the specified audience consists of believers.
So, what verbs are used in Scripture to indicate the type of speech that occurs when believers meet together? Well, primarily, the biblical authors simply use the verbs that mean “to speak” or “to say”: λέγω (lego), λαλέω (laleo), etc. These verbs indicate that verbal communication was happening, but they do not reveal much about the method of communication.
However, there is another very interesting verb that is also used often in the context of believers speaking to one another when the church meets, and that is the verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai). This verb means something like “to converse, discuss, argue, esp. of instructional discourse that frequently includes exchange of opinions”.
In Acts 19:8, Paul “reasoned” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the Jews in the synagogues, but in Acts 19:9, after he left the synagogue, he continued “reasoning” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the disciples who followed him to the hall of Tyrannus.
In Acts 20:7-10, Paul “talked” (ESV) (διαλέγομαι – dialegomai) with the believers in Troas on the first day of the week. This is the time when Paul continued speaking until midnight and the young man fell out of the window. But, what we don’t generally see from our English translation is that Paul’s “speech” could also be called a “discussion”.
There are other instances in the NT where the verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) is used to describe Paul or another believer “discussing” or “arguing” with nonbelievers. In these instances, the verb is almost always translated “reason”, “argue”, or “discuss”.
I wonder what would happen today if those who teach and speak to believers when the church meets used methods of discussion and dialog instead of the normal monologue method…