Why I Am Not Rushing to Two-Person Preaching

Whether we admit it or not, our churches are shaped by our culture.  When overhead projectors became the thing in business meetings, so suddenly preachers wondered how Wesley had survived without acetates.  Then preachers pondered the problems Spurgeon must have faced without powerpoint and projectors.

As well as technological influence, there are others too.  How regularly do we hear and see another “study” indicating people have shockingly short attention spans so we should keep our messages to less than 35 seconds?  It’s amazing how these “studies” seem to selectively focus on the criteria that make the point of the person writing – not exactly solid science in many cases.

So here’s one that surely must be coming . . . two-person preaching.  If I think back to the TV I saw in the 1980’s, I tend to think of individuals – film reviews?  Barry Norman sat in a black chair and looking at the camera.  Satire?  Clive James on his own with the occasional guest.  Now everything is done in pairs.  Presenters have their sidekicks for painfully choreographed repartee in some cases, or side-splinting banter in others.  Radio shows rely on the bouncing back and forth between DJs, and if one DJ is dominant, the other acts as a foil.  So should we expect to see more 2-person preaching?

There are positives that come to mind here.  Some of the best educational experience I had involved two professors co-teaching contemporaneously.  In Cor Deo we have deliberately adopted a two-mentor teaching model, and I delight in the advantages of that approach.  It offers the benefit of added perspective in discussion environments.  It offers the possibility of variation in voice and presentation.  It offers a tangible relational approach that fits for an inherently relational faith.

But when it comes to preaching, there are also negatives.  And I’ll share my thoughts on this tomorrow.  I’d love to hear other perspectives on this . . .

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8 thoughts on “Why I Am Not Rushing to Two-Person Preaching

  1. When you say “two person” preaching are you talking about multiple preachers who take turns giving sermons or are you talking about two people in the same pulpit at the same time? I’ve seen the first used to great effect. I think the second might end up looking like radio shock jocks…

    • Two-person, same sermon. I’m from a tradition where the pulpit is not the domain of a single preacher, so a shared series is normal in my way of thinking. I realise that sharing a pulpit with someone else could send some into shock, but this post is focusing on sharing a sermon with another voice.

  2. We Christians do love our fads and, sadly, as you point out, most of these fads are driven by the culture when we’re supposed to be shaping the culture for Christ.

    We also love the new, until it’s no longer new, then we don’t like it anymore even though we were convinced when it was new that it was God’s own latest and greatest to revolutionize the ministry. Funny, though, how we keep coming back to the same things. When will we realize that we really can’t improve on the model set by the apostles?

    The bottom line is we have to be careful to be Spirit-led and Word-driven rather than driven by fads, the latest big thing, culture, or personality (and this is true regardless of a church’s size).

  3. I’ve never seen it done well (and I have seen it done exceedingly poorly). But there are degrees of sharing – the 5 minutes tag team is very different from the primary preacher who defers on a point to a secondary speaker offering personal testimony.

    And we might argue that whether it’s Moses in the wilderness, Peter in Acts or Paul at Mars Hill, a single preacher is normative.

    On the other hand, there are a few passages that don’t fit neatly into that pattern:
    In Nehemiah 8:7 it’s a plurality of Levites who are explaining the scriptures in the context of single event on a single day (Ezra, the nation’s most prominent priest/scribe, isn’t preaching here – he’s “just” reading the scripture. Apparently in those days they didn’t just grab a random person at the beginning of the service with no warning…)
    We also find Acts describing scenarios where Paul preaches solo, e.g. Acts 13:16, but also confrontational situations, such as Acts 13:46 or Acts 14:14, where both Paul & Barnabas are speaking out boldly, publicly and quoting scripture to crowds – apparently together. Probably distinctively different from a normal “in church preach”, but not necessarily so far from open air preaching?

  4. I have seen this done and I was not impressed. In the end I felt like is was more like a bad newscast. One would say to the other “now back to you.” It also was confusing at some points because it felt like we were getting two messages at once.

  5. We can be Spirit led and Word driven but there is also the aspect of proclaiming the Gospel within the context . We can so easily get on a hobby horse and loose the meaning.!

  6. As a solo pastor of a small church I have pondered the concept of having a pair of men who share the pulpit on different Sundays but not at the same time. I think that it would lack continuity. I have seen the tag team work in panel discussions, interactive classes but haven’t seen it work well in the pulpit. I do think that there can be great benefit for a congregation to have more than one man use their giftedness and personalities in the pulpit. I have told the elders of the church that I pastor, that it can be a weakness to have one man do all the teaching. I love to preach, but I also love to have other men in the congregation and guest speakers fill the pulpit and bring their personality and what God is doing in their own lives. I feel that if all the congregation gets is my flavor, personality, it can become really detrimental as I have an intense personality and bring a certain flavor and style to the presentation. While at this point I think that is a strength, I think it can become a weakness as well in the sense that very meal might seem the same. I do find it interesting that Acts does give us a model for a pair of men who are sent out and while their may be a primary or chief speaker, it does not mean that they are the only ones who present truth. It is very important to have a shared leadership team of men who are apt to teach and are clear communicators. I am currently working with men in the church who display an aptness to teach and walking with them through preparation and presentation to assist them to become more effective in their preaching. I look forward to more of the men in the church being used more effectively in the local church I have the privilege of serving.

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