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.