Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Big Preach II

On Sunday i did my second big preach on consecutive sundays at our 'mother' church. decided to go for a 'secret agent' theme. the idea being: the church is a community that has discovered a secret (Eph. 3, Col. 1 - a mystery that has now been disclosed etc.) and that we as individuals and as community are agents of change, agents of the kingdom...working to make this secret known as we participate with God in the missio dei. started off with a secret-agent quiz where we found out who really knew their secret agents. this included trying to name all 5 Bonds (although there is some controversy here as some people insist there are 6 if you include David Niven in Casino Royale - the very first (pre Connery), but 'unofficial', Bond film). This all makes it sound like i am a big Bond fan - which I'm not really.
i think i was a little on the provocative side perhaps - i really went after the personalised, privatised, 'my own personal saviour', mentality...talked about how i always used to read the word 'you' in the New testament as you-singular rather than you-plural....and how God's primary concern is for the people of God first and foremost rather than the individual (am I turning into a Catholic?!)'s the church that is the agent of the kingdom. i also managed to squeeze in some Eddie Izzard which always helps to coat the pill.
i realise i am able to do the 'big preach' type of thing when called upon - and people have been very complimentary - but i, like a lot of others, still have serious questions about the big, set-piece, monologue as a means of learning, certainly if that's the only model of learning/teaching being used in a community. David Norrington's book, 'To Preach or not to Preach' suggests that much or most of what we mean by preaching in church today is completely alien to the New Testament - in other words: preaching is unbiblical!


Peter O said...

Two comments:

i) The very fact that you did a "big preach" and that it worked (i.e. people got something out of it) should be a provocation to the idea that big preaching doesn't ultimately work. FWIW, I think your "big preaching" works because you are more than just a big preacher, that your whole week doesn't revolve around the sermon.

ii) Depeche Mode beat you to your criticism by at least a decade...

Suzie said...

I disagree Pete. I think people may well have enjoyed Matt's sermon because he's a charismatic preacher and just plain funny (as in witty, Matt, not 'look at him!') It may be entertainment that they like: and frankly, I think that's a major issue in the church today. Passivity and players on a stage. I'm not saying, Matt, that people wouldn't have come away from your preach with things having stirred their spirit, and rhetoric can be a way of convincing people of ideas certainly at the level of their mind, but I also wonder how effective preaching is at changing how people behave.

Matt said...

thanks Pete and Suze. hmmm... i think, Pete, i would want to take issue with whether we can say that a preach "worked" simply because people 'got something out of it'. is that the correct criteria for making a judgement? recently i had my quarterly meeting with the guys i trained with and we were talking about preaching. somebody said that when people compliment them on their sermon they gently try to ask the question, "so how do you think it might help you to change?". i think Suze has a point, there is a culture of entertainment prevalent in church (and we see it in lots of different areas of church life). i for one am committing myself to a model of church where people don't passively consume what is offered by the experts at the front but actively participate in producing church (community, ministry, and mission). the only valid criteria, as far as i can see, for judging whether a sermon (or any other chosen method of teaching/learning etc. (my own preffered method being dialogue)) 'works' is not whether people 'got something out of it' but whether it effects CHANGE - change in people's thinking which will inevitably lead to change in people's actions.

RichardH said...

I think it depends on whether you as a "preacher" see yourself as an evangelist - outlooking (more concerned about the unchurched or wayward churched), or a pastor - inlooking (more concerned about meeting peoples needs) and whether the person listening is in a position where he/she is able to "change".

Believe it or not, not everyone gets something out of a "preach" no matter how long it is or how eloquently put or theorogically correct it is. Some people at some times require the talk to give them a "hug" and maybe feel better about themselves or others, at other times they need the talk to inspire them to change. The former, I think, often needs to precede the other for people to fulfil their full potential. If this is true then surely the way you preach needs to be aimed at both types of people. I fully understand what you were on about the other week regarding churches that are to "needs based" and "self centered" but to ignore the needs of people is not what we are called to either.

I think Suzies point about whether preaching is effective at changing peoples lives is a good one. What I have found most helpful in "inspiring" me to change my life or possibly even consider doing it, is to hear preachers who lead by example, are willing to open up and be humble about their own lives. This isn't something which is common in the church and not always well received but for some it is like a breath of fresh air that helps them relise they are not second class citizens because they don't feel they can cope with yet another change at that point in time.

Of course if you want a church that isnt passive in accepting what they are fed from the front you may find it less comfortable because working out what God is saying to a church is not always in line with what God is to the preacher. I know from past experience we can often pass on to others what God is really saying to us, which can lead us to not face up to what we are hearing ourselves and cause confusion and turmoil in who we tell it to.

Sorry this is a bit long and probably a bit garbled.

Anonymous said...

Guys! It's been really interesting to read what you think about big preaching! I'd advocate the notion that yes, the purpose and intent of a message is not that the audience simply passively absorbs what is spoke, but that it endeavours to initiate choices and decisions in a persons mind that lead to change, that lead to a deepening of their relationship with God, of a sharpening of peoples character and a growing towards a greater reflection of Jesus, of holiness.

However, those choices can only be implemented effectively in a supportive community where there is trust and accountability. It's ok to listen to the guy on the soapbox and resolve to be different from now on, but we are too weak sometimes to effect that change alone.

That's where the powerful inner working of the Holy Spirit comes in; that's where church comes in..

Matt said...

thanks Richard and thanks Anonymous (whoever you are!) - yes i agree, unless there are accountable relationships in place it makes real change much more difficult to acheieve. i quite like the idea of small groups (huddles in our case) following up stuff that was preached/teached/discussed elsewhere as a context to begin earthing it.