Bringing back balance – the benefits of monologue.


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;

Β 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?Β (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.Β 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.


37 thoughts on “Bringing back balance – the benefits of monologue.

  1. I appreciate the moderation expressed in this blog. So much discussion on the internet seems to have a strident ‘my way or the highway’ tone…not meaning to imply yours are so…that they turn off the readers. And then there are the ones whose comments would make them liable for charges of libel…’tool of Satan’…’messenger of the enemy’…and so on. Even if our opponents have, in our eyes, clearly fallen into ‘the Devil’s trap’, it is not our responsibility to point that out:
    2 Timothy 2:24-26(NET) And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.

    • Thanks for your comments, Tom. I’ve also found internet writing to be aggressive and provocative, stirring up argument and polarising readers. I always try to be careful with my words, knowing how easy it is to cause offence – especially when many of the concepts I’m communicating strike deep at the status quo.

      – Kathleen

  2. ohhh Balance….it really should be a curse word hehehe. πŸ™‚

    but yes it’s so true…. the Truth does usually lie right there in the middle of all the extremes! He will continually bring us back to center a bit more as we sway left and right…. and He will make sure to bring others into our path that have different perspectives to keep us centered. The hard part for me is understanding I will never be perfectly centered, balanced…. there will always be adjusting needed. That’s tough to swallow.

    Have a blessed day!! πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Kathleen
    For those of us that have never had one central meeting place with chairs and podium, an official pastor, a liturgy or anything that I’m aware of that might resemble today’s churches, monologue, within the context of dialogue is our primary means of expression. Form follows function, and we’ve discovered that if we are functioning (relating) according to the way that God relates to us and within the Godhead, our form will be biologically familial. We’ve spent many years in discussion and paradigm shifting around the differences between biological family dynamics and every other type of grouping that society creates and harnesses. Unbelievably, for all the many voices coming from the podium, family likeness in the Godhead and within His family, the church, is not part of the general public discourse.
    No surprise there of course, because if that conversation started, we would soon see the end game for this elitist oligarchy called church.
    We refer to ourselves as family but don’t function like one, because we don’t know how to communicate as one, or rather, we function like a divorced family, with siblings living with different parents.
    It seems much of our dialogue is about how to get along within that flawed framework, rather than just get back together again, and start rebuilding.
    We think that building a vision of familial bonding and allegiance within the imaginations and hearts of our children, by talking and acting like one giant biological family will sweep away the confusion, rhetoric, disinformation and time wasting that appears to convulse the general discussion about how to move from churchianity to church.
    As someone brilliantly expressed ” Just do it”.
    How that will unfold will be in a thousand different ways and means, but those that risk it will discover the love, holiness and unity that Jesus early brethren had. They saw themselves, and functioned as if they were one biological family, though of course they maintained God given boundaries between each family.
    There are always those that unintentionally confuse the momentum toward the return to family functioning church, by warning against communal-ism, or communes, and their warnings are valid. I’ve lived in a Christian commune and as fun as it was while we were young, biblical family functioning was difficult, and we abandoned it as families formed and matured.
    So, we think that the reason the bible doesn’t spill much ink on church form is because God knew that if we would concentrate on function ie: simply being or get back to being family, we would grow and mature together organically, without all the effort being spent in reform.
    Again, this is a great time to say Just do it.
    Its so simple and profound that it defies logic, and I think that’s described as faith, if it’s intentional obedience to the known will of God.
    Biological families everywhere, throughout time, when they start, don’t have teachings, seminars,mature leaders, books, tapes et al (unless they are seriously dysfunctional) as they form, and learn to function together. They simply, and spontaneously surrender to biological impulses, everyday needs, cultural imperatives, family traditions, worldviews etc.
    There’s no user manual for us, no Ikea like assembly instructions that come with kids, and yet, drop in on any family after 20 or 30 yrs of being, and you will generally find them functional, and growing.
    What’s so hard about the church doing that?
    We think this is closer to how the early church got past where we are.
    They must have had just as difficult a time envisioning how to get past tribes, nationalities and traditions as we do, but they did it, and they did it by changing their allegiance from churchianty to kingdom mindedness. It seems the apostles and prophets had a great deal to do with this shift, as they lived and taught familial ways as foundation-al to becoming kingdom minded from parochial minded.
    We should be having that discussion, because it will take a generation to unfold, and we’ve lost many generations of devil smashing, kingdom building momentum in our quest for a new status quo.

    • THANK YOU! for the encouragement to remember that we all really do KNOW how to be a family – we are part of a family! It just reminds me so much how God has such a great use/vision for the nuclear family and how that really is such a starting point to help us understand His kingdom!!

      I loved that. Just paralleling it to my immediate biological family and how we respond to life – so good, thakn yoU!! We just become a family…. and it takes time… but we just simply grow together… it’s not like we are trying or worrying about forcing something that isn’t there……we just know who we are to each other….. so we just let us be who we are……..let God work over time….. and get rid of the “Shoulds”…. just do it! ….very powerful, thank you!

  4. Well stated. I appreciate your humility and your desire to continue to grow. I have found in my 28 years of serving churches through paid staff positions, including 14 years as a senior pastor, that few people are willing to embrace the “tension” between the extremes. We have a tendency to go from one end of the spectrum to the other when, in fact, the healthiest place may be in the middle, where the tension is (by the way, “balance” is attained by equal and opposing pressure, force or “TENSION”). We have a terrible aversion to tension and conflict, so it’s easier to opt for the extreme that appeals to our preferences.

    Having said that, I believe there is value in many and varied expressions of gifts, styles and methods within the context of the church ethos. I appreciate Buck’s questions as they force you/us to think through the implications of the various methods of teaching, proclamation and learning.

    As for me, I have come to value the tension between the extremes. It’s not either or but “both and.” Great blog, great comments… keep em’ coming, it’s life-giving to me. I am passing this blog along to other young men that I am in a discipleship relationship with for consideration and discussion.

    Grace & Peace,

    • God really used your comment in me, thank you! That key word “tension” . I hear exactly what you’re saying, thank you! That’s exactly where we are living, thanks for the encouragement.

  5. I think that is the beauty of Frank Viola’s metaphor in Pagan Christianity…the train on the track vs the group walking together. How relatively easy and at the least able the walking group can flex whenever necessary or led by the Holy Spirit vs the train on the track that will have to continue or crash before change can come.

    The home group I am in now has agreed together that we will not impose long teachings on the group. We have “olders” who are full of experiences, have time to study and read and could teach or preach until they drop, but would fall asleep if others did just that. The very young and restless and their worn out parents in between. The beauty of a small group that does not major in projects or programs, is that each meeting is different and can address whatever is relevant in real time. Some in the group go to Bible Studies where they can participate in more in depth teaching or interaction. Some are involved in outreach with other people. But our weekly meeting together has no structure or format other than we share a meal together and at some point we all sit down and sing, share or whatever we feel the Holy Spirit is leading. This includes sharing the Word usually…with everyone participating. Monologues are brief and few however. Looking back over about two plus years…the Lord has done great things…not due to any great teachings however, but through consistency and walking together through what life brings to each one, each family and our community.

    I have an appreciation for the long hours of teaching and study that I participated in for many years in the institutional church. However, I would not subject anyone to that now and would try to encourage them to trust the Holy Spirit for what they need each day and to commit to relationships with others that are following Jesus sincerely and at different stages of their Christian life.

    I am sure that there are some who profit much from the structure and from teaching and preaching in more depth. But as with everything, …there is a time for every purpose… and that time has certainly passed for me and I do not see the ability or willingness in the younger generations to tolerate much of what I submitted too in terms of time spent or submission to leaders…and I am not sure that is a bad thing…given that we have a lot of failure in leadership…and there seem to be some clear reasons for that and a need to be circumspect in regards to how we view leadership and the authority we give leadership in our lives. And again…from Frank Viola’s book…we are all priests and kings…in the Kingdom. That keeps things operating in liberty and love without fear or performance or a lot of ego…or could we say balance.

    • Thank you for your comment Rita – it was so very encouraging to me! I love when people lay out what their relationship with Church looks like weekly, practically. What you’ve described is so beautiful. I love it!!!

      and you are right — for everything there’s a time/season. I do go to a “Bible Study” a very traditional one… because I felt the Lord asking me to…. and I see that He did desire me to be there for a balance in my life. A balance in theology, a balance in church practices. There’s a tension with how different (and young) I am compared to the majority there. And I know it’s from the Lord. He has just opened my heart & eyes so much to take off my judging eyes and see the hearts behind whatever it is I think it soo structured, too traditional, too this too that. To learn to submit & respect to the generation before me…. to not try to take the torch of faith too quickly but to learn to serve… even if it’s not the way I would want to do it, or prefer. My generation is arrogant & self focused. We need to learn to listen and learn and not just try to be rockstars re inventing every wheel with our snazzy new technology & power. We need to be around the older generation more more more more more for THEIR sake and to help them in their faith too and stretch them and open their hearts! as well as our own. We need each other!

      • Randi I wonder if you have read Frank Viola and George Barna’s book: PAGAN CHRISTIANITY. The is what God used to renew my first love, again at age 70 now…that was a few years ago that a friend gave it to me. Jesus is so faithful to refresh us in our love for Him, even in our old age. Frank does a great job of clearing out the cobwebs of tradition and origin of ritual that tend to bog us down over time and give his readers a really fresh perspective to ponder. I am sure there are other good reads on this subject but I highly recommend that one. That is what opened my mind and my heart to organic church and I found others who like me were so hungry for something that resonated with our spirits as the leading of the Holy Spirit. I will share another nugget of perception that has come to mean a lot to me as I walk along with my very old and very young brothers and sisters, relevant to balance and monologues. There are many instances where the Bible talks about our hunger and feeding our faith and living not by bread alone, but by the Word of God etc. If we think of the human appetite and the human ability to metabolize food, the different capacity of the individual stomach and digestive system…we can see things like, if we over eat, we get sleepy and sluggish and even overweight. Some folks can eat very little, while others especially that do hard physical labor need more nourishment and some who are sickly need less, but more often. When I was younger attending the same church for 30 years, we spent at least 16 hours a week sitting under the Word…listening mostly to preaching and teaching. While there was much benefit, there was definitely a pattern of wanting to get home and take a nap after services. I find now, that there are definite, more often than not, themes that emerge in our home meetings from our meal and sharing together and we go home with one or two thoughts, new perspective or just some encouraging word, and we feel satisfied and can ruminate on that for the week until we meet again. That spiritual food gets thoroughly digested and it becomes part of our beings and we see opportunities to share that or act on it…rather than having big meals too often, too much at one time for any of it to really sink into our hearts. This analogy with our natural eating process and the spiritual feeding process keeps us humble and careful with each other. Often some small child utters something that just blesses my sox off for a whole week and brings me joy and something to share with another who might need a lift. Some of our teens are very prolific in their song writing…some of it very emotional and immature, but some times very profound. Yes indeed, we all do need each other and I think that separating into age appropriate groups can rob the church of the reality, the wisdom, the balance and even the companionship of each other and of functioning together in the beauty of His grace and holiness, His provision for the old and the young, to love and serve each other, rather than trying to make things convenient or compatible with the current trends for keeping up “interest”. Some of our young married have benefited from meeting together for a season to work on their marriages…so I don’t mean it is never a good thing to meet in groups for specific needs.

        There is nothing more inspiring, that brings joy to the heart of this older Christian than seeing Christ at work, truly filling the lives of the young; knowing they are facing the world as it is for them with faith in a loving God and with the opportunity to learn to trust Him for every aspect of their lives; that they are not prisoners of fear, but daily gaining the courage to stand in faith and wisdom and reverence for this precious gift of life…with others.

        • P.S. We also need the younger ones to help us learn how to use our Kindles…that helps us be able to read with aged eyes, when our crippled hands can no longer hold the heavy large print Bibles, set our digital watches and the tech gadgets that our children and grandchildren give us as gifts!!! LOL. I love your humility in describing you generations challenges…it is true. But the human nature in all generations is arrogant and proud and needs to find release from itself in Jesus. You might also find, if you are a reader, a book called THE GENERATIONAL IMPERATIVE by Chuck Underwood interesting. He lays out the differences in core values and how they came about between the 5 generations that are alive on the planet at this point in time. How they can help each other and how they are exploited by the advertising industry etc. Lots of good insights in there.

          • OHHH that sounds SOO right up my alley!! I think about our generational differences a lot!

            and thanks for the reminder, ALL are arrogant. some just hide it better than others!!

        • I have Pagan Christianity sitting on my dresser but I’ve never read it. Viola is my fave author – Jesus Manifesto God used drastically in my life. Revive us again, same thing. BUT Viola’s new one — God’s favorite place on earth AMAZING!!

          I TOTALLY AGREE with everything you’ve said. and I love the parallel to eating – yes yes yes!! so good.

          I really wasn’t trying to say anybody “should” be in a Bible study…. I really was just commenting on what a funny sense of humor God has… because He lead me away from traditional church, church as business. yet I do believe He lead me into this traditional Bible Study. But looking back, I can see what HE is doing. I teach the children — and He has used that training I get there to be such a better Mommy. I am SO blessed by the older women – I had a real lack of that in my life. AND this traditional Bible Study that has been around forever is trying its hardest to be more relationship focused… starting with the year that I came to it – 3 years ago…. interesting timing! πŸ™‚ It’s really funny… everybody else really studies, consumes and focuses on the facts… I do listen & read….but during our conversations I always answer the heart, application questions only, really. I always speak on the heart…. and I see how the Lord is using my voice… and using me to create a balance in the group.

          It is SO very easy to get worn out — your example of the food is sooo soo right on…. but I am trusting on Him to keep me focused on what is important and not get bogged down and perhaps He will use me to show others what ‘study’ could look like. I pray that He will actually release me or change the study at some point… but I’m trusting He will make that clear when. For now, i focus on the relationships, a nugget or 2 each lesson and learning about parenting, children. I am thankful He hasn’t asked me to go back into “church as business” on Sunday mornings.

          That being said…. so you will know. We do meet as Church in our home, amongst other places and that is what I desire mostly. There are 5 adults and 3 children that regularly meet “as a Church”…. we are not where I desire to be… just sharing a meal and gathering for the purpose to build each other up in Christ… but I am a person of high expectations & impatience… so i am trusting the Lord to work in His timing and I will wait. I do also meet with 3 other women regularly as my sisters and they are my “Church” very much… they just don’t know!! πŸ™‚

          gotta run! thanks for listening!! πŸ™‚

          • I have read most of the Viola books you mention, but I have to say that Pagan Christianity was the clearest for me…that answered the why questions. Might help you to balance your expectations issues.

          • yeah? U think it would speak to expectations? it is on my to read list. I tried to open it once but got a bit bogged down in the facts & history.

  6. I LOVE this – these writings, these comments, this dialogue!! I have felt so parched in a “dry land” of 60+ churches in one county, but have yet to find a house where the family of God is doing life together. I’m from a large family (I’m the 3rd of 12), and I have been in church my whole life (saved at 11 and now 43). Can I say that I’ve gotten tired of Sunday church? I hate it, really. And that grieves me as I LOVE the Body of Christ and don’t want to give up on Her. Perhaps I’m not doctrinally or theologically correct in saying this, or perhaps my terms are wrong, but I think we do synagogue rather than early New Testament church. We go to hear someone teach, but doing family, doing Church, doing life together is not common. Am I wrong in thinking that the NT Church met at people’s houses, broke bread, took communion, cared for the poor, gave to each other in need and that THAT was considered church? And that Paul’s instructions were for “one to bring a song, one to bring a teaching, one to bring a word” (my paraphrase)? Perhaps I’m off-base. I wonder if this feeling of disconnection tends to be more prominent in younger generations or not. I know I’m rambling, but just feeling this issue deeply for a while and love to hear what everyone is saying on here!

  7. Kathleen,

    I know that I have said this before, but I absolutely love reading your blog. I think it is because you speak to a common, shared experience in life with me even though we are oceans apart.

    I too have felt the swing of the pendulum and tend to be polarized for a while before I come to rest somewhere in the center, with slight leanings one way or the other.

    We, Heather and I, have been involved in ministry for many years and I can say without a doubt that I have grown closer to my God and His church through the assembly that gathers in my house on Sunday nights for SimpleChurch.

    Through this unscripted, uncensored, open participatory gathering of the church, I have experienced discipleship, intimacy, and unity like I have never experienced before in the institutional church.

    I have witnessed teenagers and college students disciple 40, 50, and 60 year olds through their Spiritual gifts…and vice versa. I cannot put into words what takes place when the church assembles with a common goal of edifying one another as we follow the Spirit and submit to Christ.

    I, however, still attend Sunday morning church services. I know this is an “anathema” to most of my Organic/Simple Church brethren around the globe, but I do. And I still like it.

    I am still involved in ministry within the “Institutional” Church. I love to hear sermons (even bad ones). I love to go to conferences and listen to monologues about leadership, church planting, and ministry. I love reading books, blogs, and articles about the Church, family, faith, and ministry. I love to listen to pod casts or watch videos of monologues, sermons, and Bible studies. I love learning from the people that I serve with in church, on the mission field, at camps, and in board rooms. I love seeing an amazing visual illustration that connects the dots for me that were previously unclear.

    I love hearing monologue testimonies of God’s grace, forgiveness, and restoration. I love hearing stories about what God is doing, has done, or will do. I love analogies that bring spiritual concepts to life. I love talking or listening about God and his work whether that be one on one or one on one thousand.

    I love the church…whether that be in a living room, a coffee shop, a youth camp, a conference, a multi-million dollar facility, a mission trip, a prayer walk, or a discussion between friends about Jesus during a cookout.

    I prefer SimpleChurch. It is my favorite. But I love the church. All of it. Warts and all.

    • wow, thanks for sharing your testimony Buck. I loved reading it! I am intrigued by it. I love the way that you have found a way to be wherever you can be that the Church gathers. I haven’t been able to be a chameleon to that point yet….. or find benefit in Sunday mornings…..but I do enjoy staying in touch with many people who do plug into Sunday morning traditional services… and the new church as business services both…….and I do find great stories, testimonies and happenings of what God is up to in all areas – through those individuals – so that part I do enjoy!

      Thanks for your post. Very interesting!

    • hey Buck
      it seems as if you might be referring to me a wee bit in your wonderfully refreshing reply and so Im going to qualify what I said earlier. It was by God-cident that I ended up in an early version of todays house organic church. We were too young and untheological to know right from wrong and God led us as we sought Him.
      When we were challenged then with the prevailing consensus on what constituted a church, or leadership or creeds, we found little of anything concrete in scripture and childishly concluded that even if it wasnt in scripture, but the Lord was leading us, it was Him. For that we did in fact find several scriptural precedence such as David eating the shewbread or offering sacrifice etc.
      Most of our fellowship families were attending churches of all kinds and the Lord showed us that He was with them as much as He was with us, and often more-so in grace and wisdom as they often had serious problems to deal with that we didnt, and they did get past them.
      So, just because I’ve not been to church in 40 yrs doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have if no other leading had appeared. Today, the reason I don’t ‘attend’ is simply because its more peaceful for everyone involved. I suppose its a factor of my personality also, that leaders tend to focus on me, and either invite me to join them in leadership, which I could not do in good conscience, or they warn others of my theology. Long ago I quit trying and usually failing to explain my ‘position’ to almost everyone. The friends we share life with daily are mostly church attendees, part time, or otherwise they’ve quit altogether and are wandering.
      But all of us together are brethren, equal in Fathers sight, and mine.
      Jesus Himself ‘attended’ church, though He knew that shortly things were about to change drastically. So did the apostles.
      Ive been considering trying ‘a new church’ since we recently moved but Im keenly aware I have zero experience with that culture, and if I were to get past that awkward stage, Id likely seek out a brother who could help me to learn how to function simply as a brother and keep my mouth shut. I’m not interested in being right if it means hurting someone, losing a friend or being a stumbling block. My wife suggests we don’t start something that might end in hurt, though not from us, and she’s wiser than me usually. So we’ll see.
      But Buck, it hurt me to hear that you think or have experienced disdain from organic church folks. I apologize for them, as many of us have just as fortress mentality as institutions, and the Lord will speak to them eventually if they love Him. We really are a messed up family, but I’m truly looking forward to get to heaven and catch up on exactly how He led so many out of their particular wilderness and into His promised Life. He sure is patient, meek and wise.
      In short, He’s amazing.

  8. I really appreciate this post, Kathleen, and the comments it has generated so far. It stirs a passion in my heart that I’d like to share, and trust it will add to what has already been said concerning balance and the Church.

    Balance has everything to do with keeping our center right. If our center gets out of whack, then we have to over emphasize something else in order to counter-balance the off-centeredness. I think understanding this helps us to see how we got into the situation in the Church today that is so filled with imbalances and pendulum-swinging counter-balances. As I see it, in the BIG picture, the Protestant Reformation sought to counter-balance the off-centeredness of Catholicism by placing all of its weight on the Bible and its exposition; so much so that the Bible and Bible (monlogue) preaching became the new center of Protestantism. It still maintained the clergy/laity divide of Catholicism, however, and simply gave the priest a Reformation makeover, making him the pastor/preacher. So instead of the priest ministering the eucharist as the central feature of Catholic worship, the pastor now ministered the Bible through the sermon as the central feature of Protestant worship. That model, by and large, has shaped most of Protestant/evangelical Christianity to this day.

    The Bible as center, as good as that is, still falls short of God’s ordained center, though, which is Christ Himself, “that in all things He might have the preeminence.” Col.1:18. Only in Him is all spiritual fullness and all Truth in complete balance! Bibliocentrism for all of its great benefits, has inherent weaknesses as well which tend toward division on the one hand, for the Word is by nature a “sword” which divides, and towards spiritual deadness on the other, for, apart from the Spirit, the Word is a “letter” that “kills”. Protestantism/evangelicalism for all of its good and godly characteristics, is also rife with these twin characteristics because of its fundamental Bibliocentrism and the resulting shape of the Protestant/evangelical worship service and expression of the Church.

    In order to counter-balance the “off-centeredness” of Bibliocentrism, therefore, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement came on the scene placing its primary weight on the Holy Spirit and His gifts and manifestations. The Spirit brings greater unity across denominational lines and also brings life to that which is dying from being “lettered” to death. So now, we have another way of “doing church.” Still keeping the basic Catholic/Protestant/Evangelical pulpit/pew, clergy/laity form and format, the Pentecostal/Charismatics began to place much of their emphasis on anointed worship and prayer. The worship team and altar ministry took center-stage with the emphasis on the manifest presence of God, charismatic gifts, miracles, prophecy and the like. All of this is fantastic and great, but it still propagates the mentality of the performance of the few and the passivity of the many…only now on steroids.

    Again, a new (multi-branched) movement arises, this time to counter-balance all of the above off-centerednesses, the organic, simple, house, missional, emergent, etc… church movements emphasizing a flatter, more participatory, relational, shared-life community expression of meeting and church life. All of this, again, is fantastic and good, but, as good as that all is, if it becomes merely centered on “how to do church”, or “mission” or “discipleship”, or “social justice”, etc… it will end up with its own set of imbalances, and the next “thing” to come down the pike will seek to compensate for it with yet another counter-balancing emphasis. And on and on we go!

    The answer to all of this… that which the Father ultimately wants to center and settle His Church on, is her coming back to her first love and becoming fully centered on and in His Beloved Son. He is the One who is ordained to have the preeminence in all things. He is the One in Whom all fullness dwells. He is the One in Whom all Truth and Life is found in balance and in all purity. He is the One in Whom all Unity dwells. Only He can bring the Church back to the place of fullness, balance, purity and unity in all things.

    In practical expression, when the Church begins to make HIM the Center of its gathering, we will find that the central feature of our gatherings will become the Headship of Christ working through His many-membered Body. All of the aspects of interactive ministry, participatory meetings, relational discipleship, etc… that you Kathleen and many others have been advocating will come into their rightful place. All of the aspects of “equipping ministry” functioning in both monologue and dialogue will come into balance to serve and equip the Body to function. All of the manifestations, gifts and miraculous workings of the Spirit will find their rightful place as well along with the anointed ministry of the Word and the sacraments. The balance in all of these things will come when we truly get out Center right. I believe that is where the Father desires to bring His Church in this last day! He is summing and heading all things up in His Son, and He is calling the Church to be the firstfruits of His creation to manifest His eternal purpose in this regard. In all of many aspects of truth that we seek to minister to the Body of Christ, we should always make sure that we are presenting them centered in and summed up in Christ.

    As to this matter of monologue and dialogue, we see that Jesus employed both in His ministry. He is our model and example, and so the Church should employ both in their proper place and for their proper purpose. Only in Christ will we discover what those actually are, however. May we explore and discover what they are together as we seek Him first!

    Thank you, Kathleen, for being the voice that you are to the Body! I am greatly blessed by your words!

  9. Thank you, everyone, for your comments so far. It’s a bit like when you introduce your friends to one another then leave the room, only to come back and find them all getting along with one another. It makes me so happy to hear from you all! πŸ˜€

    RANDI – Thanks for not just encouraging me, but interacting with the other comments here. You are so lovely. πŸ™‚

    GREG – I love your experiences of church-as-family, and your commitment to sharing that vision with the wider church. I pray they “get it” one day.

    JIMMY – the concept of “tension” is a great one. There is benefit in seeing the positives in “extremes” and finding a workable middle ground.

    RITA – lovely to connect with you, and to hear your experiences and wisdom. You have much to share with the younger generation, and a sensitivity to their needs at this time.

    KATIE – I feel like I’ve connected with an old friend in reading your comment. Your life story sounds so like my own (although I’m the first of 6 – 12 must have been amazing).

    BUCK – thank you for your encouragement and comments. Like you, we are attending “regular” church (while doing “church in a circle” elsewhere), and we love the people there and see God at work, even through the limitations of the system. Our pastor reads this blog regularly and tries out some of our stuff – change is a slow, gradual process. I enjoy hearing what you and Heather are up to over the other side of the globe.

    DAVID – great comment, this would make a good blog post in itself. I enjoyed your point about the Protestant movement arising from the attempt to counter-balance the Catholic church; then the Charismatic movement arising to counter-balance that; and the current organic movement now emerging to counterbalance the previous models. You are so right when you say that we all need to centre on Jesus, not just “how to do church.”

    Blessings to you all,

    – Kathleen

  10. David, thank you for what you wrote so very well. My husband and I have been talking about Bibliocentrism for a while, but didn’t have the proper term for it. You have explained clearly much of what I could not put into words. I’ll be mulling over your comment for a while πŸ™‚

    Randi, I’m up in St. Clair County, Michigan. Beautiful area and we love it! I’m a transplanted Southern gal, so in all fairness to the North, perhaps my feeling of disconnect has an element of just simple cultural differences to it.

    Kathleen, hi, friend! Thanks for connecting with me here πŸ™‚ Six sounds fun, too, and I’m sure just as loud as twelve at times, lol! We’re all grown and spread out around the globe now. I know, for me, part of my desire for family and connection comes out of having grown up in a large family.

    Greg, I love what you wrote! and I feel like I have lived some of that in my own family. My whole family was raised in church (and various denominations) and while we all are following the Lord, we all attend various Mennonite, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Charismatic, house-churches, and Wesleyan churches. It makes for interesting family reunions, lol! While we may differ in certain points of theology and there’s the “normal family dysfunctions”, we all can talk and share and relate and revel in our God and what He has done and is doing in our lives. We have those discussions that challenge our viewpoints and interpretation of Scripture, but we can agree to disagree if needed, and still fellowship and love each other and move on without division. Hearing you describe what you so aptly did about family functioning churches brings clarity and hope to my spirit.

    • I am in North Carolina… and although people are definitely friendlier here and a lot more “open” then where I grew up, up north…. there definitely is still a great disconnect amongst everybody, as I know that you know!! πŸ™‚ So hard to get people to open their lives… and hearts!

      • I agree, Randi. I sometimes wonder if this desire for family connections within the Body of Christ isn’t somehow reflected in Malachi 4:6 (“turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…”), and if that is not, in fact, designed by God. Just how my mind wanders…:)

  11. Randi…….”U think it would speak to expectations? it is on my to read list. I tried to open it once but got a bit bogged down in the facts & history.”

    Yup…that is what I was thinking…that the facts and history kind of cut through illusions of what God is really after in our relationship with Him, without sentimentality, emotionalism, false drama etc. Just the facts mam…that is what God used to liberate me from my own expectations and my expectations of others. For me it was like a good spring cleaning of the mind. Not sure it would be the same for you…just a suggestion.

  12. Pingback: Centrality and Balance | christcenteredchristianity

  13. A great post as always. as we’ve chatted before I’ve used a mixture of dialogical, dialectic and more standardly accepted forms of communication in church. Even when ‘preaching’ I still invite people to throw in a question or have a Q&A at the end.
    I’m sure the desired end and ‘audience’ effects the method, but again we have to question what the purpose of meeting together is. It seems words such as preaching and teaching are now front loaded with a presumption that is more akin to instruction.

    If you can’t ask questions for clarification (or disagreement) at least at the end or in the other place we can continue assuming the gathering is broken.

    • Thanks Ellis,

      I’m always super encouraged by pastors who manage to balance monologue teaching with opportunities for response, questions and interaction. I think this sends a powerful message to the congregation that they are expected to be actively involved, not just sitting passively and pretending to listen.

      Blessings in your ministry,

      – Kathleen

  14. Rereading all these posts…I think a key to balance is the hierarchy aspect. When there is dependence on a leader, or even several leaders…I believe imbalance is inevitable. The opportunity for our oppositional nature… whether having been reinforced in childhood through enabling parents or whether it has become dominant through trauma or even if it is mild and tempered…to rise up and block the flow of God’s grace and mercy, when there is titled leadership is myriad. The opportunity to remain timid and bound by personality is also plentiful. To hide out in sin, to be deceived by sin and so many other destructive behaviors and states of mind. I believe it is necessary for there to be the liberty and safety of the unchallenged dignity and sovereignty, as well as the personal responsibility of each soul gathered, in order for God to have unfettered opportunity to do the wondrous work of growth and maturity in us. I am talking about the small gathering to seek God’s presence together…not of ministry to addiction or other life threatening circumstances, where there must be authority.

    • Really interesting points, Rita. My husband actually works with addiction, and uses the techniques we write about to empower people in recovery – so even in that field, there is the opportunity to reverse the hierarchy structures and give people a voice, a value and an impact.

      Jesus warned explicitly against titled leadership in Matt 23:8-12. He warns three times; “you are not to be called β€˜Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth β€˜father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.” In 40 years of listening to literally thousands of sermons, I have never heard anyone preach on these verses from the pulpit.


      – Kathleen

  15. That sounds terrific. I am assuming these folks, that are in recovery,
    are farther along than the initial stages of rehab where I have to wonder if that could be effective. But it certainly is the goal I believe God has for His children and the atmosphere in which trust and growth thrive.

    • You’re right, Rita – a number of the regulars have been in recovery for some time, although they go up and down. The meeting is part of a recovery programme, however, and up to half the people who attend on any given week may be in very early phase of recovery, having just been treated with an implant to help control cravings for heroin, amphetamines or alcohol. It makes for interesting meetings!

      – Kathleen

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