A reader asked me some questions the other day, which made me pause. For the past year, I’ve been blogging about the concept of “church in a circle.” I’ve been advocating moving out of rows and into circles; giving all of God’s people a voice, not just the pastor; and shifting from monologue teaching to dialogue learning.
When a set of scales has a weight on one side, it can only be set in balance by a counterweight. I started this blog to balance out the performance-based model of church which positions the majority of God’s people as passive, silent audience members, whose voices are unheard and uninvited.
But maybe, in the process, I’ve created an imbalance of my own. Regular readers may assume I wish to see the end of church in rows. That I think all pastors should sit down and stop speaking. That I can’t see a place for monologue at all. Let me share some of Buck’s questions with you;
Have you grown, changed, come to faith, been convicted or inspired through monologue?
Do you believe that there are situations in which monologue is the most practical way to get a message out?
Is it an “either or” or should we incorporate as many teaching styles as we can? (e.g. lecture, demonstration, story, hands-on learning, modeling, visual illustration)
Should we stop monologue altogether? Isn’t this throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
If books, blogs, and articles are an effective medium for communicating a message then why isn’t monologue?
The truth is, there will always be a place for monologue. I have benefited from monologue presentations over many years. I have heard wonderful lectures and sermons which have engaged me, taught me, inspired me and led me to change behaviours and beliefs. I know that logistically, monologue will continue to be the preferred medium in most contexts, because it is efficient in transferring large amounts of information to many people in a short space of time. Monologue is one of many teaching approaches, and I think we should keep it in balance, not abandon it. As Buck points out, I’m monologuing right now (kind of – you have the opportunity to respond, but it’s not face-to-face or real-time dialogue).
The problem I see in many churches is the medium has become the message. The sermon has become the centre. Monologue has become the main thing.
I don’t think monologue will ever disappear from most churches – but I hope it becomes secondary to communal fellowship, to connecting as God’s family, to actively loving one another.
Buck, thank you for your questions. You’ve reminded me that I can get out-of-balance in my attempt to bring balance to the church. You’ve pointed out my tendency to deconstruct, when I would rather reconstruct a fresh expression of church. I want to be part of a new movement, but I pray I don’t undermine or damage God’s church along the way by only presenting one side of the story.