Interactive Bible Observation Preaching 2

Yesterday I shared some reflections on the advantages of the approach I took to preaching through Ruth last month.  The evening meeting allowed a different approach to the morning meeting, so I had folks marking up the passage on a handout, and then interacting together about observations along the way.

Here are some of the disadvantages, limitations or challenges in this approach.

1. It takes longer.  If the church is very strict on end time, then you have to begin it earlier in the meeting.  What might take 30 minutes to preach, can take 45-50 minutes with this approach.  Having said that, people should feel fully engaged if it is done well.  It may also take longer in preparation. That is, even though the homiletical crafting may be less, the exegetical awareness needs to be maximal.

2. It requires a certain relational comfort level.  Maybe requires is too strong a word.  I appreciated knowing the people and feeling a sense of mutual trust.  Having said that, I have seen someone do the same thing with a group of people he’d never met before and it worked very well.  But he had to win trust very quickly.  Too big of a group and it would lose the relational connection potential.

3. It requires care in interaction management.  When people participate, you have to handle what is said graciously.  Even when they are wrong.  This is where knowing the congregation really helps.  A comment shouldn’t be crushed, or too overtly corrected, etc.  I see this as common courtesy, but I am used to it in more “classroom” environments.  Some preachers seem unable to handle interaction without offending people.  I was talking with someone recently and we mentioned a speaker who might be invited to something.  The comment was telling: “yes we could invite him, but don’t let him have any Q&A time!”

4. It requires lots of preacher thinking.  When people participate, there is less control for the preacher.  You don’t know where they will go.  Your questions will influence that, but you really have to know your stuff, and know your plan.  How will you create and sustain tension with this approach?  When will you preach, and when will you interact?  How can the conclusion have impact?

5. You may have to overcome other messages and ideas.  Perhaps it wouldn’t work so well in a very familiar New Testament passage.  Or perhaps it is just what is needed.  But you would need to help people see the text itself, rather than their preconceived ideas and favourite points from other preachers.

Overall, none of these issues disqualify the approach and I will used it again, modifying continually.  Print the text, let them mark it up and lead as you all enjoy the adventure together.

7 thoughts on “Interactive Bible Observation Preaching 2

  1. Very interesting idea.

    Back in the 1980’s I was involved in a thriving house church (in Massachusetts, USA) where we moved from a standard sermon format to one where discussion, Q&A, and feedback were encouraged as part of the meeting itself. Seems like a very old idea, more like the way that it was done in the first century Judean synagogue, where quite vociferous debate was a common feature, though ours was always polite! It did seem to engage people and often led to the further discovery of meaning.

  2. Nice try, but it seems that not losing control is the main idea? “You don’t know where they will go” and “but you really have to know your stuff” sounds like you have to keep it tight; they may ask some questions, but not offer any answers, cause the man who knows his “stuff” are the only one with the answers, not so?.

    Let’s go wild and not only try to implement the “Judean synagogue debate”, but apply 1 Cor. 12:7-14, Romans 12:4-8.

    • There may be a place for a fully open meeting where all input and digression is welcome. The point of this post is to engage with the interactive approach that I outlined at the start of the post and the series. Since it is in the context of a traditional sermon setting, then yes, I consider it an appropriate goal to make sure that I lead the interaction such that the passage is handled accurately.

      • Yes, I had read that but was unclear as to how… I am probably just missing something. I can hand out a text and get them to write in the margins etc… but did you split them into groups, did you allow time for them to talk to each other and then come back and discuss, did you have them read it quietly and then ask what they saw… just trying to get a feel for the “process”… maybe its something you just have to experience.

        BTW – I appreciate your blog… it has been a source of encouragement for me and instruction…. thanks for all you do.

      • Thanks Phillip. I gave them a plain text handout and guided them into a time of reading and marking the text. So we used a couple of questions like, “Who?” and “When?” to chase characters and time references. Then after a few minutes of marking the text, I interactively sought their observations and functioned as the one who brought it all together.

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