Let’s Interact Some More . . .

Yesterday I began with three thoughts about interactive preaching.  Following on from the importance of knowing the congregation and knowing the content, here are some more thoughts:

4. Expansive questions work better than only one possible answer.  Listeners don’t like being asked for something very specific – who wants to get it wrong?  They know you want them to say something specific, so chances are stacked against them.  Tuesday night’s message worked well because the invitation was for input from a vast array of possible answers.  I was primarily asking for examples of incidents in the gospels where Peter and John would have learned from being with Jesus (and since they were almost always there, there weren’t many “wrong answers”).  I would be more guarded about asking for input on a single text, since the first comment could give away the whole resolution to the tension of the narrative, or whatever.  It can be done, but carefully.

5. Graciousness is key.  But how you deal with “wrong answers” matters deeply.  If someone had referred to an incident where Peter & John weren’t present, it really wouldn’t help anyone to respond harshly, “uh, no!  That was only Nathaniel with Jesus on that occasion!”  Making the contributor feel foolish hurts everyone.  They would feel for him, they would be less likely to risk talking, they would lose interest in your message (since you don’t seem to care about them).  Much better to receive all input positively, “Great thought.  Thinking about it, I’m with you on that, I’m sure Nathaniel would have told the others about that even though they weren’t physically present.  Thanks.”  I was at a conference earlier this summer where the presenter chose to take questions, but was then harsh and sometimes bordering on brutal in how he responded to them.  Not helpful at all.  (And maybe some preachers simply shouldn’t do interaction.)

6. Non-traditional journeys still need a destination.  To put it another way, an interactive message is not a short-cut to avoid preparation.  You can’t be at the mercy of those present to make sure it goes somewhere worthwhile.  You have to know where you are going and make sure they get there.  They are at your mercy, not the other way around.  A meandering walk through the forest isn’t good if it ends somewhere in the middle and you then walk away.  Make sure you get them to the right place at the right time.

7. Interaction takes time.  It is hard to gauge how long a contributor will talk once they start.  You have to be able to graciously stop lengthy input, but it isn’t easy.  I wouldn’t consider significant interaction unless there was time available for it.  Good interaction can be wasted if there is then a panicked rush at the end to get to the destination.

What would you add to this list?

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Interact Some More . . .

  1. Under “graciousness”, if at all possible, I try to find “truth you can use” in “wrong answers”. If I’m trusting the Holy Spirit to work, then there’s some reason He allowed that “wrong answer” to pop out. Find it and use it.

    Also, it can be helpful to say something like, “Ah, I’ve phrased my question wrongly. Let me see if I can clarify.” Then, the wrong answer is my fault, which makes everyone much more comfortable.

  2. Under the idea that interaction takes time. I have found when I really reach the group I am talking to, the discussion can take on it’s own life. You have to be prepared to either go long (not always a popular choice) or rely on “graciousness” to move on in the interest of time. It is good to have some points in your talk that you can still explain for your overall point, but you can make the point in less time then you planned.

    And if it is at my own church I can simply extend it to next week if needed. I would second the idea on relying on the Holy Spirit when various answers come up. Is it a rabbit trail that pulls away from the topic or is it a area that I missed in my preparation? Rabbit trails can be discussed after church to greater detail or at another time. It only takes a gentle reminder.

    Thanks for your points! I love interactive teaching because of the way it enrolls people in the Word and allows for the Holy Spirit to move on their hearts. Some of the best points of a sermon have come from someone sharing how it was true in their lives.

  3. As one who is enjoying this conversation, I can imagine that there are some who are reading who might be having a slight reaction, thinking that interactive preaching sounds a bit like what the “emergent” movement is saying is necessary to engage the hearers. I have been fascinated by studying the various proclamation words used in the book of Acts to describe the different means of engaging the hearers.
    I would love to hear you address this topic further Peter, as it sounds like you might have a broader pulse of different perspectives as you are regularly interacting with different churches and styles.

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