the weblog of Alan Knox

But they’re not trained teachers and preachers!

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in blog links | 12 comments

But they’re not trained teachers and preachers!

Again, I want to point you to two very good posts on a similar topic. What topic? Teaching among the church.

This is huge for the church. In fact, in seminary, many classes focused on helping people (the people in the classes, that is) teach others. And, primarily, the focus was on monologue (i.e., one-way) type teaching/preaching.

But, many studies have shown that one-way teaching is not the best way to communicate, and it’s certainly not the best way to disciple. Plus, we mostly see dialogical (i.e., two-way) type teaching in the New Testament.

First, Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” continues an on-going series about “Tomorrow’s Church” in a post called “Part 6: From spoon-feeding to hands-on learning.” This is a great article about the difference between one-way and two-way teaching.

Churches today come in all shapes and sizes, with differing styles and a wide range of music genres, but one thing is consistent across most of them – the central “teaching” session consists of one person standing at the front and talking at a passive audience. Like a caring mother preparing her child’s food (in my case, it often consisted of grabbing a packet of baby food from the pantry – shhhh), the pastor has spent the week preparing the “meal” for the congregation, “digesting” the Scriptures, and organising the message into an attractively presented platter of palatable thoughts and ideas, ready to “spoon-feed” the listeners. The content is often superb, the message is often clearly articulated – but God’s people are not given an option to get their hands messy, to be involved in the learning process, to feed themselves.

Similarly, Miguel from “God Directed Deviations” tackles this subject in his post “Someone told me I should teach Homiletics. This is why I recoiled…

Personally, in my teaching or preaching, I want to listen to people. I want to be able, through the Spirit’s leading to not only answer their questions, but answer the person behind the question with a person, the person of Jesus. For me to teach someone homiletics would be a conflict of interests.

I think it would change the church if we moved from one-way teaching (monologue) to dialog. Yes, there are benefits to monologue teaching, but I do not think the benefits actually align with the purpose of teaching as we read about in the New Testament.

Have you been involved in dialogue type teaching before?


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

  1. 11-7-2012

    From my experience, teaching with dialog requires active listening, asking questions and being sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is doing. You have to be willing to abandon your own agenda and teach to the need. I have also found that it can be disconcerting for others because they are used to sitting in the pew and being anonymous. It’s difficult to do in an auditorium setting and works much better in a living room. I also used to love to hear myself talk. It was a source of pride for me that eventually had to die. Now I would much rather engage someone in thoughtful dialog then deliver some great oratory.

  2. 11-7-2012


    I’ve noticed the same things. And, I’m definitely right there with you in the “love to hear myself talk” boat.


  3. 11-7-2012

    What you are talking about was presented in a book, The Open Church back in about 1993. It confronted the pastor centric church and service and presented open, participatory meetings that follow 1 Cor. 14:26 “Does anyone have a… all must be done for the strenthening of the church.” The author’s intention was to present a more biblical context of when the body gathers for all to participate. He presented dialog instead of monologue. There are studies that show how people only retain at best one word or one phrase hours later after hearing a sermon. The author theorized that a church could transition to open participatory meetings, but has later realized that that is not probable. Most people in churches have been trained to “hook up” to the feeding hose and suckle from the pastor teet (Pardon my french). How often do we hear that the teacher is the one who learns the most. When we transitioned from Sunday morning pastor centric church (as pastors) to a network of house churches. We could not attend the house groups because they would fall into the old pattern and just sit and wait for a “word from the preacher.” We trained the house group leaders to be faciltators and facilitate interaction. Now 15 years later, half the people returned to “church as usual” as they needed someone to feed them. The other half have dispursed and are the church wherever they are and whatever they do. They are the effective ones in the body. Discussion induces people to take ownership. Participation is confrontive and demands response and taking responsibility.

  4. 11-7-2012

    My calling is to teach, but other than a handful of times, I have never been allowed near the front of a church, and I really don’t care!

    I have never needed church permission to teach what God calls me to teach. And now, having been outside of church for many years, I walk freely in my anointing without their say so, and enjoy it.

    My teaching has always been through the dialogue method, usually in a relaxed location where I am one of a group conversing, such as at home groups. If your heart is full of the nature of Christ, you rarely need to plan to teach. Every situation presents an opportunity, and that opportunity become highly relevant rather than abstract like the way it is taught from the front at church. If someone in the group is going through a situation, addressing it from a biblical perspective enables the truth to be put straight into practice, rather than get forgotten.

    I find myself falling into teaching mode anywhere and with anyone, whenever it is appropriate. To me, it is just talking about life from a heavenly perspective.
    The wonderful thing about “Hebrew” type teaching is that I also learn in it. Many times a simple question has caused me to modify what I thought.
    With monologue teaching, the man can stand at the front and spout all sorts of daft things. Because he is “The Man” nobody tells him when he is wrong. Additionally many infantile obedient Christians simply conclude that they must be the wrong ones because, after all, “He is the man!” Who are they to challenge God’s anointed.

  5. 11-7-2012

    Great comments and really good solid thinking here. I love it. After many years…and I appreciate the years of “sitting under the Word” for the shear volume of Scripture that passed through my mind…however, definitely do not see these younger generations putting up with much of that…they simply are not programmed for it and after long years of healing from churchitis…I could no longer abide the monologue method either and am very thankful for the more and more like-minded folks that I come across who find dialogue so full of life and excitement and satisfaction.

  6. 11-7-2012

    Being a part of a house church–organic church–whatever term you care to use church, most of our preaching/teaching is in a dialogue form. I have done the other a few times as a guest preacher, and find that standing in front and preaching to a “passive audience” is at once exciting and disconcerting. Being used to a participatory environment seeing the people there listening passively makes you wonder if they are actually engaged.

  7. 11-8-2012

    I appreciate all the comments here. If anyone is interested, I’ve written several posts on dialogical teaching as found in Scripture. It’s quite interesting when you begin studying it, especially when you compare/contrast the difference in Scripture between speaking to crowds of nonbelievers and speaking to the church.


  8. 11-8-2012

    It’s so encouraging to hear people’s positive experiences with interactive church methods. It does take a significant shift in mindset to move from a passive audience to active participants – but it’s difficult to go back once you’ve experienced it.

    Blessings, Alan,

    – Kathleen

  9. 11-8-2012

    Alan could you give us a little more definition (titles) of your other posts on this subject so we can reference…thanks.

  10. 11-8-2012


    Yes, I’ve heard more and more positive experiences of dialogical teaching over the last few years. This kind of teaching is just a centered on Jesus and the Scripture as monologue teaching / preaching, but the focus is not on one person.


    Here are a few to start with:

    Also, check out the “Related Posts” at the bottom of each of those posts for additional links.


  11. 11-11-2012

    God, by nature is a two-way communication being.. He never lectures anyone. He always wants feedback and response because that is relational. Lecturing the word is usually why the children are sent away. Even most adults will not retain or reproduce truth that is lectured. It’s a spectator approach to truth. What a shame. In Gods grace He can use it, but It will not substitute what he has asked for.Open Church was the first book I found years ago that showed the Biblical tragedy of expert driven truth lecturing with zero participation from Spirit empowered and anointed people..

  12. 11-12-2012


    As a seminary-trained person, I can see the benefit of having academically trained voices among the church. However – and unfortunately – its seems that most other voice (non-academically trained) have been silenced… and that’s unhealthy for the church. As a seminary-trained person, I’ve learned much from my non-seminary trained yet Spirit-led brothers and sisters in Christ.