Preach the Word!?

I’m just wondering…since I now have several people reading my blog that are offering great insight and questioning my thoughts…about preaching.

I have not stood in a pulpit and preached a sermon in well over a year. I have become quite disconnected from that sort of ministry. I haven’t been to a “normal” church service in several months. No, I haven’t forsaken the assembling of myself with other believers. We meet in my home nearly every Sunday evening. (Please don’t go there with this post, because that is not the point of it.) 🙂

Anyway, I am wondering about this particular verse:

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

2 Timothy 4:2, NLT

Preach the word; be instant is season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.

2 Timothy 4:2, KJV

When Paul wrote this particular line in his letter to Timothy, what was Paul’s idea of preaching? When Timothy read this particular line, what was his understanding of preaching? What was “the word”, that Paul was talking about? Could the “logos” have been simply referring to Jesus? Or is that too simplistic? Were they thinking about going to Scripture and developing a three point “sermon” to give as a monologue speech? Were they thinking about standing in front of a passive congregation while they gave a talk? If Paul were to walk into a typical church service today, would he find familiarity? Where do we find a particular “call” to preach? Are not all believers and followers of the Way “called” to proclaim the message of the Gospel? Of course these questions raise many more questions, but I will stop here for now.

I don’t offer these questions as critiques of any particular thing. I am really earnestly trying to understand this. Every time I see someone in the New Testament preach what we would call a “sermon”, the audience is always non-believers. I can’t find where anyone preached a “sermon” to a church gathering. Also, none of these “sermons” seemed to be anticipated ahead of time. They weren’t prepared statements with notes and such. They weren’t scheduled. They were spontaneous declarations of the Gospel which would usually culminate with the speaker being persecuted or the listeners repenting, or a combination of the two.

I wonder about this because the central focal point of nearly every Evangelical Christian’s week is the big moment of the sermon. The sermon seems to be the most important and honored discipleship method in churches today, yet I can’t find in Scripture where this was the normative or even understood practice of the early churches. I haven’t read yet where Paul, Peter, John, James, or even Jesus stood and preached a sermon to believers for the purpose of discipleship and growth in beleivers’ relationship with God. In fact, from what I understand, this was not a common practice until after the Reformation. Maybe I am missing something that you guys can help me see.

BTW, I do think that Scripture offers us a very clear picture of what was the normative practice among early churches when they came together. I will save that for the next post. For now, please show me where I have gone wrong in my thinking. 🙂

Thanx!

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49 Responses

  1. Seems like some good points.

    I’ve noticed in my life that sermons really don’t do a whole lot for you. What you can hope for, is enough encouragement to crack open your bible and throw up a prayer. Once you do that (diving into the word and offering prayer), you start to change and move towards being a disciple of Christ. It’s a lot like an LTG really.

    It seems the early church met in homes quite often, and because of the size of said homes, churches were much like small groups. Also, take into account the verse that talks about when you come together, EVERYONE bring sometime to edify one another, whether it be a song, prayer, prophecy, or teaching from the Word. I see everyone contributing in the church to everyone else’s spirituality.

    It seems the idea of a preacher standing and giving us a lecture about what to do and not to do is a horrible idea for our culture. It encourages us even more to rely on others to do the work for us and give us the benefits. Like chewing our food and spiting it out. I don’t know, you might have to anaylze the sermon on the mount a little more, and see about the audience, the message, and the intent behind it.

    What would be interesting is studying the Church in China. That underground movement has possibly made up to 200 million Christians there in a relatively short time. What are they doing?

    As for leadership, I’m not saying groups of beleivers don’t need it. What I’m saying is that maybe the “office” of pastor and deacon was really more of a “role” that people fulfilled. Pastor being a person that had a heart to give direction, guidance, and support, more so than those around them. Deacon being a person that was more willing than those around them to give up anything and everything for his brothers and sisters. And I’m not sure these “roles” were to be limited to men only, at least not the role of a servant (deacon).

    Something to think about.

  2. Ah, the first to break the silence.

    I think you are on to something with the leadership role idea, though that will go over like piss in a snow ball with most folks around our little blogshpere. I definitely think you have uncovered a forth-coming discussion on the “everyone-bringing-something-to-the-gathering-to-edify/teach-the-rest-of-the-gatherers” thought you mentioned. This is exactly what is taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Most folks just go to these verses to try to prove or disprove manifestational gifting or sessationist theory, rather than really coming to grips with what Paul is actually talking about.

    The Chinese underground church is quite amazing, especially since most of these churches are actually led by women (can’t remember where I heard that, but I know it was from more than one source.) Most of these churches are not led by a single “pastor” but are led by a plurality of elders who are not elected into an office, but are recognized by the church and itinerant, apostolic leaders to function in these leadership roles. Everyone gathering in these churches are encouraged and expected to freely participate, much like what we read in Scripture.

    BTW, we have been experimenting with these types of gatherings for nearly two years, and I can testify that they don’t fit neatly into our typical boxes of understanding. They can be messy. They rarely look the same from week to week and sometimes happen at different locations (i.e. parks, restaurants, someone else’s home). Also, I am NOT an expert on this. I am a learner and practitioner, but have a long way to go!

    This should be interesting…

    Thanx!

  3. I agree with Turp partly. ‘Partly’ because some preaching IS horrible, but not all! I know that wasn’t what you were saying, but moving on…

    I agree that everyone should edify the body as taught in I Cor. 12-14.

    “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” Acts 20:7

    This verse seems to suggest preaching to believers and even on Sunday. Although in agreement with you it was not a three point sermon! One thing about the “traditional” church that Paul would not be comfortable with is meeting for an hour and then calling it a day (the Lord’s Day). If someone didn’t die from falling off of a balcony it didn’t last long enough for Paul!!! I do understand this was on one occasion. 🙂

    On this point, it seems that many who are straying from the traditional church are more strategic in time spent meeting together. If not more they are just as much schedule keepers (maybe its the times)! Also I see the prevalent idea of less meetings through the week is better. Sorry for being off subject a little.

    Just for def. sake the word “preach” means:

    κηρύσσω [kerusso /kay·roos·so/] v. Of uncertain affinity; TDNT 3:697; TDNTA 430; GK 3062; 61 occurrences; AV translates as “preach” 51 times, “publish” five times, “proclaim” twice, “preached + 2258” twice, and “preacher” once. 1 to be a herald, to officiate as a herald. 1a to proclaim after the manner of a herald. 1b always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed. 2 to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done. 3 used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian teachers.
    v v: verb
    TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
    TDNTA Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume
    GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger
    AV Authorized Version
    Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order.

  4. Interesting.

    Billy,

    First, let me say thank you for continuing your participation. I am glad you chose to continue to hang around. I also see that many folks are stopping by, but are not posting. WHY!? I really want to hear from some folks on this.

    I find it interesting you (Billy) chose to define the Greek word kerusso. I learned this word in Seminary, so I was quite familiar with it. I will also remind everyone that I am not AT ALL questioning the “preaching” of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it. This is a VERY biblical practice and serious command found often in the New Testament.

    Again, to make sure we are all on the same page, the “PREACHING” I am questioning is what happens every Sunday morning around the world as professional “preachers” step into a pulpit to “preach” a discipling message from the Bible to a passive congregation. I do not see this anywhere in the New Testament, and am wondering why it is the MOST common practice among Evangelical Christians.

    Billy, in the verse you quoted, Acts 20:7, kerusso is not the Greek word used. The actual word Luke used here is dielegeto, which is denoted with Strong’s (1256) and refers us to dialegomai.

    Vine’s defines this word:

    “primarily denotes to ponder, resolve in one’s mind (dia, through, lego, to say); then, to converse, dispute, discuss, discourse with; most frequently, to reason or dispute with. In Heb. 12:5 the R.V., “reasoneth with” is to be preferred to the A.V., “speaketh unto.” The A.V. translates it “preached,” in Acts 20:7 and 9; this the R.V. corrects to “discoursed,” lit., ‘dialogued,’ character.”

    Strongs:

    “to say thoroughly, i.e. discuss (in argument or exhortation): – dispute, preach (unto), reason (with), speak.

    Let us take a closer look at the context:

    “On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was PREACHING (dielegeto, dialoguing, discussing, arguing) to (with) them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept TALKING (logon, explaining a particular subject) until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul SPOKE (legomenou, discussed in conversation) on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s still alive!” THen they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued TALKING (omilesas, to converse, talk with, associate with) to (with) them until dawn, and the he left.” (Acts 20:7-11, NLT, with my own added parenteticals)

    The context of this discussion is certainly among the believers there in Troas, but He didn’t just stand and speak an all night monologue. It was obvious he had a discussion with these folks. It was a very intentional discussion, and Paul was obvious the main communicator and leader of the discussion. All four of the words denoted above give credence to this position, but the context DOES NOT lend itself to the monolgue style of sermonizing we see today.

    So my question remains, why is a “sermon” the most important and stressed thing among Evangelical Christianity today? Where did this practice come from?

    I still don’t see it in Scripture, yet we claim as Missionary Baptists that THEY are our “sole rule of faith and practice.”

    I think the answer to this question is important for us to wrestle with.

    Thanx!

  5. Jeff,

    I included the def. in connection with your original question about Peter’s words to Timothy. I know your question is much deeper than the definition.

    Preaching in church services has at least two purposes in my opinion. Both kerusso (for the lost if you will) and dilegeto (for the saved) styles are necessary.

    What ever the opinion, in the verse I quoted we do see Paul before the people as the main speaker. It is clear that he continued “his speech” until midnight.

    The concept of teaching is weaved throughout the New Testament. One form of teaching is obviously what Paul was doing in the quoted verse. Paul wasn’t asking them (in discussion) what they thought truth was to determine what they should believe. This is not a new concept. Ezra is another example of someone who stood before the people even way back in Old Testament times!

    If someone wants to do things different than the traditional church, then do what Jesus did! Go to the parks, concerts, and the zoo, etc. where there are crowds of people and teach as he did! For a while he had a large following. The same crowds heard many sermons by Jesus. That number did get smaller because his teachings became to hard. Jesus also sat down specifically with his disciples to teach them truths like in Matthew 24. Jesus even stood before Jewish synagogues, read the Scriptures, and then expounded upon them.

    In Acts the believers met at certain times for prayer. What this led to I’m not sure. I know on many occasions it led them to go out and preach the gospel with boldness. I do believe that prayer should be a greater part of our services than it has been (in the traditional church) for years. This has been my conviction for some time. I would say our church spends a lot more time in prayer during scheduled services than most traditional churches do. We don’t just pray before the offering and to close the service!

    The fact remains that whether in large or small groups, teaching must be done. I believe God blesses both!

  6. BTW- For those of you who don’t know me… I do not where a suit when I preach (except on special occasions) and I am not an advocate for everything going on in traditional churches. I simply do not think that the answer is to abandon the traditional church altogether.

  7. Thanx for the response, Billy. I too agree that teaching must take place. Here is a question, does it matter how that teaching is done? Is the mode of communication linked to the message itself?

    I also do not advocate the abandoning of the traditional church. I simply found God calling me away from that setting. What we do is NOT for everyone. I hope that I have not lead anyone to think this is my position. I want to stress that I value my background. I have not abandoned the faith.

    I think I articulated in a previous post that we are very orthodox in our beliefs. We just have a different orthopraxy. Our beliefs are lived out in a different way, but our practices DO NOT exist outside of SCRIPTURE. They may not be traditional, but they are definitely not UNSCRIPTURAL.

    I have made many statements thorughout this blog, that reveal my thoughts about traditional church settings. I am concerned with many of the practices that are found in these settings, but that doesn’t mean everyone should leave. God is calling some to make a difference in these settings, while at the same time calling some outside of these settings to minister to people that will never walk into the “box”.

    I hope that both of these ministry settings can begin to learn how to work together within a region to more fully reveal Christ to a lost world.

  8. My original question has still not been answered.

    Where did the modern practice of preaching sermons come from? Was this practice the original intention of Pauls use of the word kerusso in 2 Timothy 4:2?

    Again, please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that the preaching of sermons is wrong. I would just like to know what you guys think about the origins of this practice. When did it start? Why was it started? Who started it? Where was it started? How was it implemented throughout history?

    If it is not “Scriptural” per se, then why is it the “main event” in Evangelical Christianity today?

  9. Neal, I know you’re reading this…please come play with us.

    Seriously, I’d like to hear from more of you guys on this.

    Nathan, I know you’ve got a smart @*! comment to make. Share it! 🙂

    Holla!

  10. Hospital and home visits, family stuff, I will get around to it. Maybe tomorrow.

  11. Jeff,

    I am enjoying this discussion. Please don’t take anything I write personal. One of my biggest problems in the blogworld is being straightforward (as I am in person) expecting everyone to understand when I am smiling and/or being passionate, but not arrogant or rude. My voice and attitude (like in person) cannot be heard and is often misinterpreted. One of the words that most people use to describe me is passionate (I believe, one of my spiritual gifts). If I believe something to be true I am very passionate about it. My preaching is, if not anything else, very passionate also. I am going to try to do a better job of expressing myself from now on.

    Dude, if God can use you or anyone else to reach people that the traditional church can’t reach I’m all for it. You are the only one that knows your motive and “calling” by God. It seems that you are trying to do things Biblically, hence this discussion. Otherwise, God wouldn’t be glorified and you would be wasting your time! The Word (Jesus) doesn’t lead us to do anything contrary to His Word (Scriptures).

    Jeff said:
    “Here is a question, does it matter how that teaching is done? Is the mode of communication linked to the message itself?”

    I don’t think anyone in this blogsphere thinks that preaching behind a pulpit or preaching without a pulpit (every week) is the only method of teaching. However, it is a good method that God is using worldwide to change lives. This is a fact right here in Bald Knob!

    Heck, standing behind a lectern is how our country gets to know the presidential candidate of which they will elect. Our society seems to like this method. Bush’s approval rating is down because he doesn’t stand behind a lectern enough. Public speeches have always been one of the best ways to communicate issues, truth, ideas, etc.

    I haven’t given you a modern history of when preaching a sermon behind a pulpit started (I don’t really know), because I see it all the way back to Moses (ok. maybe not a pulpit/lectern). He preached the Law of God to the people of God time and time again! Joshua did the same thing!

    What is your idea of the best method or mode of teaching? What do you want to use/do to replace preaching sermons? Seriously, I’m curious?

  12. Okay so here is my comment… Jeff I know that you are a very gifted preacher. I have heard you preach to both saved and lost. I have never heard you preach a bad sermon. I know you are dilligent in putting a sermon together and They are always very informing and good!!!!

    I even believe that you would say that the Holy Spirit of God “led you” in your presenting these sermons.

    Dude you like stirring the pot!!! What a topic. Marbles!

    Maybe we should quit using the full canon of the Bible also. I don’t see where it was used in the New Testament…..
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    Or maybe the traditions of the early believers wasn’t such a bad thing?

    🙂 Nate

  13. Thanx for the sweet comments Nate. 🙂

    I am not saying that preaching to a congregation is WRONG!!!! 🙂

    I would just like to see a clear biblical (NEW TESTAMENT) command or principle for why we do this they way we do it.

    I mean this particular thing seems to be THE MOST IMPORTANT thing/event that happens within Evangelical Christianity. I would really like to understand why you guys think we should be doing it.

    Why do we do it?

    Billy, YES God has used and will always use this type of communication to accomplish some discipleship. I celebrate with you any life-change you have seen as a result of your preaching there in Bald Knob! Praise God !

    However, just because God uses it, doesn’t mean that was what God used in the early church. It certainly doesn’t mean that it is the only thing God used today, as you already stated.

    But think with me on this. Is a monolgue sermon the best way to disciple God’s people? Or is there a more biblical way? As I have stated, I just don’t see a NEW TESTAMENT example of preaching a monolgue sermon to a passive audience.

    So again I ask, where did this come from? Why is it the MOST common form of communicating God’s Word? And I am not just talking about behind a pulpit. I am specifically referring to the type of communication, but the pulpit is indeed an interesting subject to delve into!!

    Thanx for the discussion!! 🙂

  14. Oh, Billy I will attempt to answer your questions at the end of your last comment in my next post. 🙂

    And Nate, interesting thought on the canon…
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    but let’s not throw out the Bible, okay!?!?! 🙂

    Thanx!

  15. If I remember correctly, a lot of what we see today as far as the layout, style, and order of what is known as a traditonal Sunday morning service originated or was borrowed from what went on in the early synogogue. All that aside, you guys have already mentioned some of the language studies behind the word “preach.” I found that there were around 13 different words or forms of words in the Greek and Hebrew that were translated as “preach or preached” in the KJV. You are going to find multiple audiences for these speaking events.

    When I think of preaching, I do not just consider it a Sunday morning affair. It is a serious and humbling matter to handle the Word of God anywhere at anytime. It doesn’t matter to me which location (Nursing Home, Sunday School fellowship, youth meeting, a gathering in a home, an LTG) or the audience (young, old, friends, family, saved, or lost). I use differing styles and tools for every situation and always try to make it clear and make it connect. I pray and ask for God to take my preparation and use it for His glory.

    We don’t have a pulpit at Harmony and I do not wear a suit or a tie on Sunday morning. If I find myself in another church with those things I comply. Mics, pulpits, attire, and style are all peripherals that do not change the fact that God’s truth is being communicated.

    When I look at the NT, I see men who seized every opportunity to tell any audience about Jesus and God’s truth. It was done in synogogues, homes, out in public, and at gatherings and assemblies. Believers were equipped and edified and the lost were saved.

    Neal Pumphrey
    called to preach, trying to be faithful

  16. Thanx Neal, great thoughts.

    I have heard many different times that most of our Sunday service patterns are derived from the synagogue.

    However, I have found some very interesting historical information about the origins of our modern church practices. I will try to share some of these thoughts in my next post. I think you guys will find this information compelling.

    Again, I hope that you guys understand that I am not trying to criticize your practices. I value you guys and your ministries. You are my friends, colleagues, and brothers. God has used all of you in my life to teach, convict, humble, and stir my spirituality and attitude.

    I have just found that much of what is done in church has lost it’s original intentionality. Many practices and traditions are simply blindly adhered to, and often these are thought to come right out of Scripture, yet many, dare I say most, of what happens in traditional church settings is not found in Scripture. This does NOT make these practices wrong. They are just vehicles of which man devised and God certainly uses to deliver His perfect Word through imperfect men and women.

    My real purpose, subversive motive, in questioning these most accepted of traditions is to help people understand that our (CrossLife and many other groups long before us), slightly different approach, is just as viable as the more traditional approach.

    I know that most of you guys understand this in theory, but I still think many look toward our practices with a slight since of distrust. I don’t mean to imply that this is any of you, because I can’t read your minds. 🙂

    I hope you guys understand my intent and do not take any personal offense to the somewhat controversial subjects that I am questioning.

    Thanx for the conversation! Does anyone else have any thoughts to share?

  17. you said

    “I have just found that much of what is done in church has lost it’s original intentionality.”

    No doubt! But I am not sure that the intention of the Church is to be exactly what it was in Acts. If so then we need to sell everything, live in a commune and share all of our wealth. Things we do no doubt have roots in other areas of secular society. The art of pulpit preaching for example.The biblical example most used is Nehemiah 8:4, “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose…” That’s not a New Testament example though.

    you also said

    “Many practices and traditions are simply blindly adhered to, and often these are thought to come right out of Scripture, yet many, dare I say most, of what happens in traditional church settings is not found in Scripture.”

    I agree too but nor is most of what happens at any sttting. House Church, Institutional Church, small group, Christian convention etc… I do agree strongly with the above statement but that doesn’t mean all is bad and ungodly. People need to know where to draw that line between scriptural practice of the Church and traditions though.

    I will catch up later…i have a family camping trip this weekend. it’s tradition 😉

  18. Good thoughts Nate! Hope you guys have fun!!

    To be sure, I am not saying that we should throw out all traditions. I am not saying they are bad. I think I already said that, in fact.

    Nate said: “People need to know where to draw that line between scriptural practice of the Church and traditions though.”

    My point as well. We are developing our own traditions. Traditions aren’t bad, they are just traditions. I am not criticizing these practices, but neither should our particular practices be attacked (I know you guys aren’t doing that, but some people have!)

    There are people reading these conversations with contempt in their hearts toward us. They are lethargically criticizing our ideas in other forums. They don’t speak up here for fear of looking foolish. I hope that our conversations will help them understand why we do what we do. Whether our practices are more traditional or more…um…well…first century historical.

    Nate said: “But I am not sure that the intention of the Church is to be exactly what it was in Acts. If so then we need to sell everything, live in a commune and share all of our wealth.”

    You know, Nate, I am not sure this wasn’t God’s intention for the church. (Not the commune thing, necessarily, though I don’t see anything wrong with that.)

    The “sell everything” and “share all of our wealth” are very interesting ideas. This type of “redistribution” is very biblical from the Old Testament and the New Testament. This is very upside down from our independent, whats-mine-is-mine, Western mentality. Our culture was founded on individual independence, not mutual and recipricated dependence on the the community.

    The early church in Acts and for the first two centurys holds many lessons about humility, consumerism, and hoarding wealth for personal gain. I’ll be honest, when I try to take Scripture LITERAL like we “say” we do, I begin to get very uncomfortable in my nice neat suburban lifestyle. So then I just try to play it off or “interpret” what is written to make myself feel better about owning a nice vehicles and 42″ Plasma TV.

    To be transparent, God, through His Word, has been busting me out over my consumer-driven mentality over the last year. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13, NLT) This verse doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach.

    So this raises an interesting question in my mind: How much of what is done in our ministries is driven by money rather than the Holy Spirit? Take some time with that. DOn’t just write that question off. And, it doesn’t matter if we meet in homes are multi-million dollar campuses, we are still tempted by the god of money. It just typically manifests itself in different ways.

    I recommend a great book on this thought. It is: “The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical” by Shane Claiborne. If you are comfy and cozy and like your life that way, don’t get this book. I’ll be honest, again, I don’t really like it, but God has used this book to bring some conviction into my life over my personal finances and sinful pride. These thoughts are very compelling for me.

    What does this have to do with preaching? Well, how many of you get paid for preaching? Don’t say you don’t get paid for it either, because if you decided to stop preaching and start having open-dialogue on Sunday mornings, everyone of you would probably get fired within the month. I don’t say that to be critical, just trying to be honest. I hope this jsut helps us to think about what we ALL do more seriously and with more clarity.

    Thanx!

  19. Jeff
    After reading the post and comments I gotta ask. Are you trying to legitimize the way you are doing church by tearing down another? It’s just what it sounds like not a jab at you. For what it is worth here is what I think. I believe there is room for “anyway” to evangelize and disciple folks. God calls us to use the abilities that He has given us and to minister in the different settings He has called us to. Your gift is different from Neil’s and his from Nate’s and Nate’s from mine. Olive Branch is different from Bald Knob and Bald Knob is different from New York. But all of our gifts are from God to be used to further His Kingdom not our tradition or a new way.
    As far as being paid to preach, I don’t know were you are going with that. If you started preaching instead of dialoging I’m guessing you would be done in a month too. I have been paid to preach and now I get paid to dialog and I have learned that it is a heart condition that allows them to hear or not, not a communication condition.
    Man just keep on doing what you are doing, be confident in it and rejoice in the fact that God has called you to do something different, but at the same time rejoice in the fact that God has also called others to be the same. And we should all rejoice in the fact that He called any of us at all.
    Keep up the good work!
    Blessings
    bill

  20. Um…Bill…I am not sure how to take your comment, so I will refrain from taking it as an angry one.

    I don’t remember “tearing down” anyone’s way of doing anything. I have made a concerted effert to avoid that. You, and others, may have taken my comments and thoughts as “tearing down”, but I can assure you that this was NOT ever my intention.

    I was simply wondering why the MOST accepted and honored mode of communicating the Word of God today is the “sermon”. Not one person has offered legitimate NEW TESTAMENT proof for doing this. Again, that doesn’t, at least in my mind, make it wrong, ineffective, stupid, or anything else that would deem it bad.

    Hey, I love a good sermon!! I have listened to hours of online sermons. I have preached hundreds of sermons myself. I value you guys and your ministries.

    I would just like to know why Evangelical Christianity is so driven by a practice that can’t seem to be validated in the New Testament Scriptures. We say we are New Testament churches in doctrine and practice, yet we can’t find our most cherished practice in modern history commanded, exemplified, or practiced in the NEW TESTAMENT.

    BTW, I really wasn’t “going” anyhere with the comment about being paid. It just came up as a result of talking about money. I didn’t mean to tangle with anyone’s pocketbooks. Seems like that always tugs on some very personal strings. 🙂

    Thanx for commenting. I really hope that your comment wasn’t in anger, and I really hope that no one thinks I am trying to tear anyone or anything down. I was just wonderin’!! )

    Holla!

  21. Oh, Bill, about the “legitimizing” thing you referred to at the beginning of your post, I really hope that you don’t think I am that insecure. Sure, I have delt with many of my own insecurities, sometimes in a healthy way and sometimes in not so healthy ways. But, I can say, at least to my knowledge, that I have never tried to tear someone down to advance myself.

    I have been on the receiving end of such things over the last couple of years, but I don’t remember reciprocating it. Ifyou really think that is what I was doing, then you either grossly misunderstood what I was saying, or I need to go live in a cave without any communication with the world. 🙂

    Thanx!

  22. I like the George Bush comment. I busted out laughing when I read it.

    No amount of speeches will get that man’s approval rating up and cover all the stuff he’s done, I’m sorry, lol 🙂

    Jeff, here are some hard word, but here goes.

    I think there’s a bigger problem with paid ministry than there is with ministry itself. It’s cool that some serve others, but to get paid for serving… eh… I don’t know about that. That’s like getting paid to open the door for someone or give someone a gift. Instead of inflating church budgets lets inflate the bellies of the poor. The bigger problem is with how relatively helpless the local church has made Christians. They are not being discipled; they are not being taught to stand up on their own two feet and stop whining to their pastors with every little problem. That’s why we have paid ministers – people can’t do a cotton-picking thing for themselves. I’m not sure who’s to blame, but there’s something pretty jacked up with the system.

    We need to find ways of making disciples, who can follow Jesus themselves, with very little help from leaders. Leaders are visionaries (with can include teaching), not a maintenance crew. People don’t need 3 sermons a week, Sunday School, BTC, VBS, Wednesday Night, and all the rest. They need to get on their knees with their Bibles and let God work on them.

    I’m not taking an intentional swipe at people being paid for their jobs as pastors, but perhaps its time to really think this situation out. It’s really ridiculous in my opinion. I’m ticked that entire budgets go to staff, and I’m ticked that churches need a staff to figuratevly hold their hands while they go to the bathroom.

    Welcome to McDonald’s: May I Take Your Order!

  23. Jeff
    There was no anger in the post, just some observations as I see it. Never said that you were trying to advance yourself I know better than that. But it seems that when you question things, its because you are trying to figure things out. But when others question you it is an attack. It is not anything against you ,I promise, just trying to figure things out too.
    bill

  24. Thanx Bill. You are right. I often jump to conclusions about people’s motives for questioning my thoughts. That is pretty stinkin’ ridiculous and ironic when you ponder it isn’t it?

    Well, at least we aren’t all caliming to be perfect!! 🙂 I really do appreciate this conversation. It has been informative, convicting, and humbling for me to face some of my own attitude problems.

    Thanx for all the comments. I hope my thoughts, your thoughts, all of our thoughts, when shared in transparency and love, will help us all love God more, love each other and the world more, and more effectively make disciples that will glorify our great God and King, Jesus.

    No matter how we teach, preach, proclaim, herald, communicate, grunt, live, display, walk, ponder, reveal, embody, exemplify, and honor the message of the Cross, I pray that it will all magnify Him and not us. I know that this is you guys hearts and motive. I do not question this.

    Thanx!! 🙂

  25. I got a new post up that might help the discussion on my blog. Feel free tocheck it out and leave some feedback

  26. Wow, I can’t leave Jeff alone for a week.(been on a cruise) ;- p I am much more of a reader than a poster. But I feel I offer an interesting viewpoint. My entire family is in traditional ministry. I am here with Jeff and have many in depth conversations. We agree on many things but our different personalities express things different. I understand both viewpoints and have my own views. What I have noticed by reading is NOBODY likes it when their views and convictions are questioned. It’s not usually expressed with anger but a very defensive stance. If we are honest with ourselves our first response is to be defensive of what we think to be true and defend that.(that’s mine) and many time when our emotions get in the way we tend to make assumptions of others statements so we can pick it apart. Let’s replace assumptions with questions. for us to learn from one another we must get past our own defensiveness and accusatory attitudes, we must have the freedom to discuss big questions and not look down our noses at those who don’t align with our thinking or try to lump people into groups(labels) that we disagree with. If we could have conversation with the stance that none of us have it figured out so let’s ask questions and examine all questions from all sides not just our side. My statements are not directed at one, group, or way of thinking it is for us all. Just what I noticed in reading. Remember blogging is great but words only make up part of the communication process. And by the way Nate you are now the only one in the family that has not been on a cruise. 😛

  27. What up Jeff! Man you’ve got an interesting discussion going on. How have you been? Do you remember me from Seminary? Holla at a brother! I won’t comment just yet on the above topic but will keep reading.

  28. Suck on an egg Austin!

  29. You know how I know we are all in Christ (besides the whole 1st John thing)?

    Cause we fight like brothers and sisters 😉

  30. Not sure who the sister(s) is(are) on here, lol.

  31. I can always depend on you, son, to start an argument! I have a question for you about the scripture you quoted in your original post on “Preach the word” – what about the additional commands to exhort, rebuke, and reprove? These commands do not lend themselves to a group discussion in my opinion but seem to be a command to Timothy to speak to believers with all long-suffering and doctrine. Does this have to be a three-point sermon? Of course not, but I believe it does imply standing in front of a congregation of believers and teaching them from God’s word, exhorting or urging them strongly to follow the doctrines that are taught in the Word. Also, if you search the word “exhort” in an online Bible you will find numerous references in Acts and other places in the New Testament where believers were “preached” to.

    Now you have a comment from a sister – LOL!

  32. This has been an intriguing discussion. I really didn’t anticipate this much activity! 🙂

    Now my mom has jumped in!! This is great stuff! 🙂

    Anyway…

    First, I would like to thank Neal Pumphrey. He is the ONLY person who answered my question. Thanx, bro.

    I wasn’t trying to tear down anyone for preaching sermons. I wasn’t even questioning the validity of doing such a thing. I simply pointed out a FACT from the NT Scriptures: we DO NOT see anyone standing, sitting, leaning, or even doing handstands in front of a congregation of believers for the purpose of delivering a monologue “sermon”.

    We do see many examples of guys standing and/or sitting in front of an audience of non-beleivers for the purpose of preaching, declaring, heralding, etc. (kerusso) the Gospel (i.e. Peter, Stephen, Paul, etc.). So, yes, it is VERY biblical and practical to stand before an audience to speak and share God’s message, to lost people.

    Mom, great question! In the passage I first mentioned, 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul is NOT talking about a “group discussion”, for the word he uses is “keruxon” (strong’s 2784 – kerusso), which means to publish, proclaim, announce openly and publicly, to noise abroad, preach. My question was really concerning the audience for that speaking. Was Paul telling Timothy to stand before believers and preach the Gospel to them, or would Timothy have understood the audience to be lost people? I really don’t know. That is why I was asking. Yes, Paul instructed Timothy to be ready whether the timing was convenient or not (the meaning of “instant in season and out of season” in the KJV), and to proclaim this message of Jesus for the purpose of reproof (elegxon – to put to proof, to test), rebuke (epitimeson – to set a value upon, to assess a penalty, to allege as a crimination), and encouragement (parakaleson – to call for, invite to come, send for, pesuade, entreat implore). So, this text seems,by my small understanding, to indicate that Timothy was to proclaim the message of Jesus, whether or not the timing was convenient or safe, for the purpose of proving the message’s accuracy, pointing out the sin in the lives of the hearers, and ultimately inviting them into the Kingdom of God with persistence and patience.

    I think the confusion was caused when additional scripture, Acts 20:7, was brought in to illustrate that believers were sometimes the audience for good ol’ preaching, but, as I tried to show, that particular instance does not teach us that Paul was preaching a monologue sermon, but was actually teaching and interacting in conversation with the gathered believers. Certainly he led that discussion and more than likely did most of the talking. We must remember the context. These were new believers. There really wasn’t much they could add to the discussion at this point. They more than likely added thoughts as God led them to understand more and also asked questions.

    All of this discussion has possibly revealed a subtle and disturbing fact: MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE IDEA FOR THE MODERN SERMON CAME FROM. Yet, it is the most honored, cherished, sacred, celebrated, and tightly held to tradition in all of Evangelical Christianity.

    So again I ask, where did it come from? If not the NT, then where? Why do millions of Christians gather every Sunday morning to passively sit while a professionally trained speaker gives his weekly speech? When did this start? Why was it started? Is this THE most effective modality for discipleship?

    I know this isn’t a popular question, but it must be asked.

    Thanx!

  33. Jeff,

    No confusion with Acts 20:7 being inserted. I’m sure everyone reading this is smart enough to see that Paul gave a speech in front of believers…”his speech.” Must I say, no one gives a flip about a 3 point sermon. My “sermons” have one point to them, “get real and follow Jesus!” My goal in preaching is to help people mature to the level that they are living out their faith and walking in the “Way” seven days a week, and not just on “Sermon Sunday.” Kerusso is a general term used for public speaking. You are making too much out of it!

    Speaking straightforward, not angry…
    Why? For the sake of justifying what you are doing? Why do you need to justify anything to anyone? Is it for the sake of attacking those that get paid for it? To make us rethink what we do? What is your real motive here? It seems to be several different things. Do you want someone to tell you that you are right? Do you want everyone to quit preaching sermons to saved people? Do you want people to be ok with the fact that you don’t? Which is it? None of the above?

    “New believers” or not, discipleship must go on continually. Picking one word and trying to give it a new meaning is where the confusion comes from. You are the one that has linked, “preach” (kerusso) with a singular meaning (preaching to lost people). 2 Timothy 4:2 in context disagrees with you. The context (Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus), as your mother pointed out (the context), is clear that the type of “preaching” Paul is referring to has to do with believers being taught the WORD, “for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers…” 2 Tim 4:3. Preaching and teaching is linked in the context. Your mother’s words were very wise! Thank you for your comments Sister Rhodes.

    You have proven in this post that more than one word is used to describe what goes on in churches world wide every week. The sermon is called the message, the preaching, the speech, the talk, etc. I think it is a mistake to pick at one word in order to redefine a modern style of ministry or correct an old one. In the beginning comments I offered several Biblical examples of where today’s sermon style comes from, Moses, Ezra, Jesus in the Synagogue, etc. It’s not new.

    I have to ask…
    Is your purpose in posts like this one to change the current idea of church for everyone, OR is it because you have an example (real life not in a post) of how it’s supposed to be done? I’m all for the example. Show us the most effective way to lead people to Christ, disciple them, and reproduce new disciples that make it long term! I am assuming the reason you are so confident in what you write is because you are seeing great success as the Lord leads you. Amen! I pray for your success. I really do!

  34. Thanks for the kind words, Brother Billy! Son, I think in your original question you also asked “What is the Word” that is to be preached – I think you put great limits on the Word when you proclaim it to be only the Gospel message. While this is by far the most important message of God’s word, it is certainly not the only message. Therefore I think “preach the word” means the ENTIRE word, not just the gospel. And much of the Word is obviously intended for believers, correct? Aren’t the letters to the churches written to believers? If the Bible is our rule of faith and practice, it also tells us how to live our lives – this is the purpose of the Sunday sermon, or the whenever sermon, for me. By your own public proclamation, God called you to “preach the word”. Has He changed His mind, or did you change yours? And I have asked many of the same questions Bro. Billy asked you in my mind, so I anxiously await your answer.

    Love U, Mom

  35. #1 – I don’t need to justify or legitimize what we do.

    #2 – I never mean’t to demean or tear down any form of communicating the Word of God.

    #3 – I never said I figured out the most effective way to disciple people.

    #4 – I was just wondering why the weekly “sermon” was the MOST common and accepted form of communicating the Word of God today.

    #5 – My motive? I was just wondering out loud (well electronically out loud).

    #6 – I didn’t ask for Old Testament forms of communication (i.e. Moses and Ezra, though they serve as good examples). I was looking for New Testament examples. When Jesus “preached” in the synagogue his audience was primarily lost folks, though. In fact, nearly all of His audiences for His public “sermons” were lost folks. His primary discipleship method for His closest followers was living life and teaching as they went through life together. He taught them in homes, on roads, on mountains, in gardens, by lakes, in the streets, etc.

    #7 – Why do I question this practice? Because we say the Bible is our sole rule for faith and practice, yet I wonder if it really is. I include MYSELF in that question. I am not just pointing out what others are doing. Like Nathan said earlier, I too have preached sermons, and if I get the chance would do it again. I don’t see ANYTHING wrong, irrelevant, or outdated about it. It is good. I just can’t find it’s veracity in the NT.

    #8 – Can’t a brotha ask a question and get an answer? It seems like everyone has tried to poke holes in my questions rather than just answering them. Why? It seems like everyone is looking for my ulterior motive or something. Why? I was honestly just wondering. I am trying to understand the Bible and modern-day applications and actions.

    #9 – While I am not trying to legitimize what we do, I do often wonder why others try to tear us down. I have received emails from people trying to start crap, and it does make me wonder about our path at times. We have seen “success” and we have seen “failure” here. Sometimes I know it would be easier to put a steeple on top of a building (Hey, Nathan, still thinking about that blow-up steeple we discussed that time!! :)), get pulpit, put up a sign, and take out an advertisement in the local paper. I mean, heck, we could even ask all the other churches in the ABA to pay for it all, including our salaries!! I really hoped that this discussion could help me understand some things. To my surprise, I have learned some unexpected lessons.

    Billy, I guess I am stupid, because I am not smart enough to see Paul’s “speech” in Acts 20:7. Sorry. Maybe it’s them danged ol’ Louisiana schools that buggered up my brain. I never meant to assume that you preached 3 point sermons. It is interesting that you say I am “making too much out of it”. I am simply pointing out what I see the actual text saying. I am not the one reading my modern day ideas back into this particular text, though I am guilty of this, as we all are. I thought we should study and probe the Word. Isn’t it a good thing to learn and question? Are you offended by my question? Do my simple and obvious points of discussion make you uncomfortable? Believe me that was not my point. I was just wondering. 🙂

    You also assume that Timothy was the “pastor” of the church in Ephasus. Why? Did Paul originally intend these letters to be “Pastoral Epistles” or is that what we have taken them to be? Also, in 2 Timothy 4:3, who is the “they” referred to in the text. I take it you assume that “they” refers to believers. Why?

    Now, to answer some more direct questions:

    “You are making too much out of it…Speaking straightforward, not angry…Why?”

    I didn’t realize I was making too much out of this. I was just wondering. I was just studying the Scripture and reasoning through them and my experiences. Didn’t mean to make to much out of anything. I was trying to be a student of the Word.

    “For the sake of justifying what you are doing?”

    I already addressed that above. I don’t know why you asked this question. Again, I don’t feel that I need to justify anything. I was just making some observations and asking some questions.

    “Why do you need to justify anything to anyone?”

    I don’t need to justify anything to anyone. We don’t receive anything from anyone. I certainly, should be obvious by now, am not concerned with being popular. I am sure not trying to please people, not even my Momma, though I do love ya Mom!! 🙂

    “Is it for the sake of attacking those that get paid for it?”

    Never realized I “attacked” anyone. I did make a comment about getting paid to preach. I’ll admit that was an unwarranted jab at some of you guys. I really meant that in jest more than anything. I don’t care if you get paid for what you do or not. I hope no one thinks that I think I am better for what I do because I don’t get paid for it!! Heck, I don’t deserve to get paid for what I do!! 🙂 You guys work a heck of alot harder than I do. Neal had to wait wait to post because he was loaded down with work. I really never meant that to be an attack.

    “To make us rethink what we do?”

    I am not trying to change anyone, just in the process of allowing God to change me. I wanted to know if my thinking was too wacked out or if I had missed something somewhere along the way. I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. I am not trying to sway you guys to the “dark” side. 🙂

    “What is your real motive here?”

    Why are you waisting my blog space trying to figure out my motive!!!!!!???? 🙂 (That should be taken loud and sarcastic!!) Why has more time been spent on attacking my question rather than offering simple answers? I have NO ulterior motive here!! I would just like to know what you guys understand about the origins of our modern day practice of preaching sermons (whether one point or 53 points).

    “It seems to be several different things.”

    Really, you have actually cultivated a list of ulterior motives from my non-motivated post? Interesting.

    “Do you want someone to tell you that you are right?”

    Certainly don’t need that. Scripture speaks for itself. I haven’t claimed to be right. I am just a learner and seeker. Truth is there and is to be discovered. Man I’m just searching. I haven’t said you are wrong or right, or that I am wrong or right. I have just tried to clearly state what I have studied, and asked questions.

    “Do you want everyone to quit preaching sermons to saved people?”

    Did I say that? In fact, I never said this practice was wrong. I just wanted clear biblical evidence for our practice. Do you really think I would want everyone to quit preaching? That is ludicrous!!!

    “Do you want people to be ok with the fact that you don’t?”

    I could really care less. I am obviously not trying to start a fan club here. 🙂 I am not that insecure. I am not seeking approval, affirmation, attention, hugs and kisses, a pat on the back, or any of the such. I was just asking a stinking question!!

    “Which is it? None of the above?”

    Amazing, you finally answered a question!! Albeit, with another question of your own!! (Sarcasm, laughing, joking!!:))

    “Is your purpose in posts like this one to change the current idea of church for everyone, OR is it because you have an example (real life not in a post) of how it’s supposed to be done?”

    Not trying to change anyone. Just trying to be a follower of Jesus, just as you guys are doing. My path just happens to look a little different. I haven’t put you down or attacked you. I have just asked questions and made observations from your comments. I question and question. I will question your answers, but I do not question your motives, though maybe I should.

    Example? 2 Corinthians 12-14 should suffice. Mark 4:1-20 is good too. Luke 10:1-20 offers a great example as well. But I am sure you weren’t talking about Scriptural examples. You mean from our experience here in Southaven. Well, for that I would rather discuss some things in person. I can’t articulate some of the stories we have been a part of here. Now if you are looking for statistics like – building, budgets, and butts in seats, well, you’ll be disappointed for sure. But I know that wasn’t what you meant. We have seen incredible moments of life change and disaster. I have never claimed to have it all figured out, like you guys seem to have accomplished.

    I was just asking some questions…

  36. Did you know that Sigmund Freud discovered that humans learn best when information is presented in 3 logical points? [Learned this today].

    I kid you not! It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever learned… well that may be an overstatement. Not sure what to think about it.

    Anyways, I understand the search for affirmation for what you’re doing, but not everyone will obviously affirm you and your methods. That’s when you’ve got to stick close to those that do affirm you, and affirm you most, namely Jesus Himself.

    There’s nothing wrong with what you do, and it’s very courageous. Stick to your guns and keep fighting the fight. Remember, life change truly happens in relationships, not impersonal lectures. All people come to the Gospel because a person who they considered a trusted friend share the Gospel with them. They might have got saved right after talking to their friend, or during a traditional sermon sitting in a church pew 3 months later. Remember, the Gospel is missional, communal, and relational. Those are loaded terms, but quite precise.

    Good luck buddy!

  37. Billy
    You said
    Amen! I pray for your success. I really do!

    Please do not act as if you are concerned about what is going on over here to cover up your very accusatory and yes arrogant statements. I think it is clear to everyone what you are saying. Don’t use concern as a mask. Why do I say this?

    In 3 years have you ever called to check on us?
    Have you ever e-mailed for things to pray about?
    Have you asked us to be on a prayer team?
    Have you ever really got on your knees and called us by name to father?

    3 of 4 I know you haven’t and I’m not talking about “God help the missionaries” that is a shallow and lazy excuse for prayer in my opinion.

    Love/concern are committed to action not words

    To be honest most of you I have never prayed for and probably won’t .I make no apologies for it and neither should anyone else. I pray for people God puts on my heart and people who ask. I hope you do the same.
    This post has nothing to do with either side. It honestly offended me. I don’t like to be tossed around like that. If you choose to respond a simple apology or I feel I did nothing wrong will do I don’t want to get in an argument or debate about it. I have spoken my feelings and will not harbor anger no matter what your response. I do hope you are doing well and lives are being changed in your ministry but I do not claim to be praying for it. If you would like me to I will for as long as God leads.

    A Brother in Christ

  38. Austin,

    I have prayed for the work there. However, in order to pray for you I don’t have to do the other 3 things you mentioned. You are right, that work is not on my top priority list as you made clear I am not on yours. I have several more church planting endeavors that I am involved in!

    “Preach the Word” and you will have success!

    Finished with this subject. I feel like I’m among babies.

  39. Love the finish!! 🙂

  40. I was hoping someone else would answer my looming questions, though.

    Again, I thank Neal for his simple answer.

    Thanx!

  41. Jeff,

    Thanks for the phone call! It was good to talk instead of write back and forth about misunderstandings. God Bless you guys as you follow HIM!

    How about that finish? 🙂

  42. Rock on, my friend!

    Hey Nate is this horse dead too!? 🙂

    BTW, I will try to post a historical perspective of the practice of sermonizing sometime soon. Until then, and until He comes back, keep preaching my friends!! God’s Word is real and relevant.

    Thanx, Austin for your passion!!

  43. I got a cankering last night to step back into the pulpit somewhere, not sure why, other than maybe this: there definitely is something appealing about being able to handle and share God’s Word others, regardless of whatever format presented in. 🙂

    I will share that from my personal experience of preaching (and interim pastor for a short while ;), it is much easier to stand in front of a bunch of people and preach, than it is to go one on one with some and share the Gospel. Again, to me it seems that way cause the former activity is a lot less personal. That’s why I feel it doesn’t work as well for communicating to those who have not yet come into a relationship with Christ. Just my thoughts of late.

    Any of you guys feel the same way?

  44. Man I love preaching to Teens each week! I could write an essay on the benefits of preaching to teens!

  45. Turpin,

    If you do both on a regular basis, talking to people one on one becomes just as easy as preaching before a crowd. For me anyways. The key is to be real and not canned at either approach.

    Nate write us an essay! 🙂

  46. Busy next few weeks, but I will keep it in mind for when i return!

  47. No body ever invites me to preach anywhere…:( I really need a hug…:(

    LOL. Why would anyone want me in their church screwing everything up!?!?! 🙂

    I love sitting down with folks and having discussions. I also, at least when I was doing it, enjoyed preaching to a group. When I was a Youth Pastor I got to preach “token” sermons, but that was about it. I did teach on Wednesdays to my youth group. I enjoyed the creative freedom I have with that, but I would do things vastly different if I were in that position today.

    Nate, I have heard you bring it down several times, bro. I love to hear you communicate with kids. For its not just what you say, but how you get it done. Keep it up!

  48. They use to say that I brought the house down and that heaven would descend from the sky. (I mean that almost literally).

    I wonder if they still think that 😉

  49. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Trachea.

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