Let’s Interact . . .

Last night I had a great time at a church I’ve visited many times before.  I had about 85 minutes and decided to do an interactive message.  Here are some reflections and thoughts from me, but feel free to chip in:

1.  All messages should be somewhat interactive.  Even if you don’t expect the listeners to say anything, good preaching will always be stirring response and comments within the listeners.  Good preachers know what listeners are probably thinking and respond accordingly.  In these two posts I am thinking about overt congregational participation.

2. Knowing the congregation matters.  It does help to know who you’ll be preaching to when you choose to go much more interactive.  A few years ago I chose to do an interactive sermon in a church that I hardly knew.  I certainly was unaware of the group brought along from a nearby “home” that interacted in an entirely different way than the elderly folks who made up the rest of the congregation!  Knowing them matters, them knowing you care matters just as much, but we’ll come to that issue tomorrow.

3. Knowing the content matters even more.  This one is massive.  As the preacher you have to know the subject and the range of potential input.  Taking a comment from the crowd that changes your understanding of the text could be complicated.  You get to choose how wide the net is thrown for input, but it is important that you can handle whatever may come from within that range of Bible text (and theology/history/whatever else you open yourself up to).  If you are genuinely struck by new insight, great, but if you seem to be informed by everything you hear, you’ll lose their confidence!

I’ll finish this post tomorrow, but feel free to chip in with your thoughts . . .

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6 thoughts on “Let’s Interact . . .

  1. It seems to me numbers 2 & 3 are somewhat inversely proportional.. The better (more broadly) prepared you are, the less important it is to know the congregation. The better you know the congregation, and what their input will be, the more likely it is that targeted (instead of broad-based) preparation will be sufficient.

  2. Are you not talking about congregational participation?.

    I think in true interaction you are, at best, a facilitator or a catalyst – you help the congregation to build up the sermon. This may be more in line with 1 Corinthians 14 where each person has something to contribute under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    How scary is it to lose control …

    • I’m referring to an interactive sermon where the preacher is the preacher (rather than a facilitated group discussion where the leader is not a preacher, contrary to the experience in many home groups!). In this type of preaching the listeners overtly participate, but the preacher is not out of control.

      • So much I want to say but my mind refuses to co-operate.

        e.g. so much so called participation is downright patronisation – “Good question” or “Good answer” when you know full well that the truth is “Stupid question” or “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about” or “That’s not the question or answer that I want to deal with right now”. The call for participation must be genuine. Maybe you will deal with this tomorrow.

        “Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect. A closely related term is interconnectivity, which deals with the interactions of interactions within systems: combinations of many simple interactions can lead to surprising emergent phenomena. Interaction has different tailored meanings in various sciences.

        Casual examples of interaction outside of science include:
        communication of any sort, for example two or more people talking to each other, or communication among groups, organizations, nations or states: trade, migration, foreign relations, transportation,
        the feedback during the operation of machines such as a computer or tool, for example the interaction between a driver and the position of his or her car on the road: by steering the driver influences this position, by observation this information returns to the driver.”
        (from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interaction)

        I was using the first sentence as my definition of interaction. It seems to imply a loss of control by a single object resulting in the movement of control between the objects. In a sense the interaction takes control. When used properly it seems to result in deepening engagement, empowerment, encouragement in the congregation. It seems to move from a preacher and congregation, speaker and hearer distinction to an “us” inclusion.

        Interaction as such may be inappropriate for declaration preaching.

  3. I really like this topic and think that there needs to be more dialogue and interactive conversations within the ministries of the church. I think that for many this venue can be intimidating but I have grown to enjoy the interactive style of which you are speaking Peter. As I consider what has helped me most in this regard has been understanding what part the passage or topic under discussion fits into the whole of redemptive history. It is a bit like building a jigsaw puzzle but knowing the picture well enough so that the individual pieces are more readily recognized as to where they might fit into the whole. A book that is worth reading on this subject is Dennis Johnson’s book “Him We Proclaim” with the subtitle, Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures.

  4. I guess the “teacher/pastor” in me wins out over the “preacher”, in that I have always leaned towards an interactive style. Not commenting on content, but style, isn’t this what we see so capabably illustrated in a typical black, gospel congregation? As for “knowing the listeners,” a prepared & knowledgable speaker is able to engage most any willing congregation.

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