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Preaching - The Emerging Church Way

7 July, 2003 12:11 AM

What is the place of Preaching in the Emerging Church?

On the weekend I had an email arrive in my inbox that asked me to complete a survey for someone who was doing a survey of Emerging Churches. The guy asking the questions is doing a doctoral study of preaching in the emerging church. I found it to be an interesting research topic and am also wondering what 'preaching' looks like in the EC's around the globe.

At Living Room after 4 months we are yet to have a 'sermon' (in the traditional sense of the word), there have been no monologues and nothing that resembles preaching in the sense that I've previously seen it in the churches that I've worked. The only times I give a sermon these days is when I'm guest speaking at a church or a camp — and even then it often ends up more like an brawl (workshop might be a more correct way of saying it) than a 'sermon'.

Having said that, there has been a lot of group learning, teaching and exploring. Scripture has been opened and expounded virtually every week. People have been challenged and stretched by God through the worlds of those sitting around the table with them. Whilst some weeks I do prepare something for the group to grapple with, most weeks the group itself is responsible for each coming prepared to participate in the learning experience.

The way the survey was worded, I'm left wondering if what we are doing is weird? The questions 'seemed' to assume that the recipient of it was the one doing 'the preaching' and that they were solely responsible for preparing a sermon. The questions focused largely around topics and preparation of sermons.

I had presumed that in the post modern world we live in that methods of 'preaching' might be undergoing some change. Are we weird, maybe even heretical in the approach we're taking?

Those of you actively participating in or observing EC (or any community of faith for that matter) - I'd really be interested in hearing about what you're doing in this area. Does your community do 'preaching'? If so, what does it look like from week to week? In what ways is preaching changing shape in the church today?



We don't do "preaching" although we will have a key leader prepare and facilitate a discussion or lead a meditation or whatever.

dan » 7 July, 2003 1:52 PM

I think there is a difference between proclamation and preaching. In my experience in the EC I think proclamation occurs but little preaching.

phil » 7 July, 2003 6:02 PM

We're not planning to have any preaching as such. Right now, we're hanging out with a small church in our tradition that isn't really emergent, but could easily be if they wanted to. They do things the way most churches do - someone leads singing, someone takes care of communion, someone has a sermon prepared, etc. It's much more casual than in bigger churches, but the same basic content.

We're planning to avoid the sermon format. We've found that it's even more boring for one person to talk in a small group than it is in a large group. There is a wealth of alternative formats to use - from ancient practices to modern education workshop formats. No reason for one person to A) Spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of things to say to his peers B) Ignore the contributions others are ready to make.

I think the survey was a bit off if it expected an EC church to have normal preaching. But, in all the hip, young semi-emergent churches we've seen, they're very traditional in format - music, preaching, communion, closing prayer, etc. I suppose most people aren't innovating in that way, though more people need to, like you guys at LR are doing. I'd be interested to hear how/what you do instead of preaching. I like the idea of everyone coming ready to share. Very biblical (1 Cor 14:26ff).

Justin Baeder » 8 July, 2003 3:32 PM

ta for the comment Justin,

Our sharing times (preaching/proclaimation) at present revolve around a great little course we're doing called Ignition which is a walk through the book of Acts. Each person has to read 2-3 chapters of it each week and do a little homework, thinking about their own missional context and things happening in their own lives. When we come together we bring together our experiences of the week with the Scriptures we've been reading - its amazing to see what God is teaching us. I can't believe that I've been in church for 30 years and never been forced to bring real life together with Scripture before in such a practical way!

Darren » 8 July, 2003 3:56 PM

I'm a preacher. I love preaching. I enjoy preaching. Preaching will most likely be a part of any faith group I lead. The format, style, structure, and method of that preaching may vary widely, though.

I do think preaching, even the 20-minute monologue, has a place in emergent church if that's the way you are wired & choose to do it. I don't think a "sermon" is a requirement to be called "church", though.

My preaching, since I allowed myself to become an emerging pastor, has changed significantly. The 3-point expository sermon has been replaced with an intimate time of storytelling.

kevin » 8 July, 2003 5:11 PM

we have hardly had any preaching at grace for the last 3 years - haven't missed it!

jonny » 8 July, 2003 6:27 PM

if you are not preaching the word, like Jesus, like Peter, like Paul - you are not a minister of the gospel or even a real church.

Greg » 9 July, 2003 1:07 PM

Interesting that you bring that up, Greg. Seems to me Jesus did a good chunk of his preaching by asking questions of other people and getting them to find the answers, themselves. There were even a few times he seemed to get quite upset that people expected him to just deliver a monologue instead.

kevin » 9 July, 2003 4:25 PM

ah, dear old Greg - steadily stereotyping himself into a corner :-)

Our little community doesn't preach, as preaching just doesn't make sense as the best approach when you can have a mutual discussion and share ideas, rather than just expound them..

From cursory surveys of church friends, most people seem to remember little of most sermons, but remember much from meaningful conversations with likeminded and opposite-minded individuals.

Eddie » 9 July, 2003 10:43 PM

And storytelling. I remember reading a couple of Jesus' stories. Seemed to me that a lot of them were told without explanation, simply letting the story itself work on people.

The congregation I serve is definitely *not* emerging (more like... hmmm... submerging)... but they get alot more out of the Word being explored by storytelling than they ever have from it being "preached". (And that's *their* opinion.)

Richard B » 10 July, 2003 2:15 AM

there are one or two differences between Darren and Jesus. Jesus being God means he can break the rules. Scripture is very clear that the word must be Preached.

Greg » 10 July, 2003 12:20 PM

I don't think anyone here will disagree that the Word should be preached (proclaimed). But, I don't see where in the bible it says the contemporary method of sermon is the only proper way to preach (proclaim) the Word of God.

kevin » 10 July, 2003 12:48 PM

Assume you have an EC of 200 plus people. How do you proclaim/preach with out it being monologue. (Which seems un-expectable in the EC from the about discussion).

Jeremy » 10 July, 2003 1:33 PM

We are early days but I reckon I will miss 'preaching' as I know it.

I have really appreciated the fact that it is not only my wisdom that we learn from and in that I think others have learnt to value their own opinions.

hamo » 10 July, 2003 1:49 PM

I kinda stumbled across this site and think all of the respondents need to read Martyn Lloyd Jones "Preaching and Preachers."

Ray » 10 July, 2003 10:27 PM

That's a good question, Jeremy. I don't see myself as "having" an EC of over 200 people, though. It will be time to split off and start new shoots well before that. My plan is to keep the individual congregations small enough to keep the information, family atmosphere & only gather as the full group occasionally for big group worship nights, at which time I don't know we will have any sort of "sermon".

kevin » 11 July, 2003 2:06 AM

Preaching is something that needs definition. Preaching in the Bible was never done in the sermon format (even the sermon on the mount doesn't look like a modern sermon), but was done amongst the people in an environment hostile to the message of the Cross. Do the EC's preach the way the Bible describes preaching? Is the message of forgiveness being spread to those who actually need to hear it rather than those who already live by grace?

Teaching and Preaching are two different things. Sermons are nice for teaching, but so is "when you get up and when you lay down, when you go out and when you come back in" day to day living life teaching. Try not to confuse the two. Preaching involves teaching, but its not identical.

Russell Mann » 12 July, 2003 9:00 AM

Small groups are for discipleship (learning) probably by discussion, interaction, etc. but the large group talked about (200+) are for worship and celebration. The word can be read and stories told - but it is not really the best place for monologues.

Mark » 6 November, 2003 8:14 PM

I am very intrested in this whole EC thing. The EC idea of teaching, proclmation, and storying telling do seem strange to me. I belong to a very traditional church, and have been struggling with the way my church does "church". The one thing that I will miss if and when I move is my pastors preaching. Most times it fits the three points model, and every week I find myself sharing with my coworkers, friends, and family what was "preached" at church sunday. This always leads into disussions and discovery, not only for me but also for the people I share with. In my personal life my pastors sermons started making sense and being relventant in my life when I got serious with God after being a christian for 20 years. So some of it is our personal responsiblity to be open to how God is moving in a certian community, the likely hood of EC style working in my small town in southeastern NM is very slim. Traditional preaching may or may not work some places, but we are all on the same side aren't we? I love to debate, but lets not forget the people who may go to Hell while we debate preaching vs. proclmation. I really love what Paul says "I become all things to all people..." and weather traditional or postmodern, God is God and in my estimation he will use whatever vehicle he chooses to spread the Gospel and he may choose more than one vehicle. My prayer is that as christians we are obedient to the call whatever it may be. I am still intrested in EC, but their are so many book and websites, can someone point me in the right direction?

peter » 25 November, 2003 2:27 AM

Hello everyone. The first time I heard the phrase "emergent church" was about 8 hours ago, so I hope I am not breaking any protocols, and ask your forgiveness if I do.
I do feel, however, that I should respond to a post by Greg. Jesus said when 2 or 3 are gathered in my name there I will be in the midst of them." What is "real" church if not being "called out" of the world to be in the midst of the one true and living God? You're right that the word should be preached. Keep in mind Jesus' exhortation to Peter when he asked Peter 3 times if he loved him. Peter looked at another disciple and asked Jesus about him, Jesus replied that he should not worry about someone else but concentrate on doing what Jesus told him. If God told them to share the Gospel through a 20 min. monologue, personal testimony, discussions, or taking their unsaved friends out for pizza -- why should you or me be concerned? To do otherwise is to disobey a direct order from God given to all of us from one who Jesus earler said "Get behind me Satan." Instead I will pray that the power of God radiates out from them in a way they have never experiences, thus increasing the Kingdom of God. Because God does not want any to perish. Please join me.

Scott Curtis » 3 January, 2004 12:44 PM

is the role of the church that of a teaching institute or a preaching institute (historically) ??????

vgn » 7 January, 2004 12:58 PM

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