Tuesday, September 8

Is preaching really the best way to get our message across?

I just returned from a three-day pastor's conference in central Ecuador. It was an excellent time of seeing many old friends and hearing some great teaching and preaching from my Ecuadorian Baptist brethren. However, as I sat through hour after hour of one preacher after another, I could not help but think about a recent Alan Knox post where he quotes from an article entitled It's Better to Preach to Your Pet than Sit Through Sermons.

As Andrew points out, most of us tend to retain only 5% of what we hear in a lecture-type sermon/message. Yet for some reason this style is the most common form used.

Here is Andrew's graphic of how much is retained from various learning methods:
If there are more effective ways of communicating our message, why do we continue to favor the least effective forms? As pointed out in Andrew's graphic, other styles of teaching and learning are better suited for a higher retention rate.

Would you not agree that this study is an important consideration for those of us involved in making disciples? Preaching the Gospel? Teaching others? What are the implications? What must change in the way we "do church" to be more effective communicators of the truths of God's Word and building up one another in the Body of Christ?


Dennis Poulette said...

I definitely think we need to re-think how we teach. I just asked the question yesterday (on my Spanish youth ministry blog)..."why do we choose to tell the most interesting story in the world in the most boring way possible?"

Of course, I didn't even mention how ineffective we are at it most of the time.

Thanks for reminding me of this.

Greg Bailey said...

To quote a famous Jewish father, "Tradition, tradition!" We must be willing to think outside of the box, even when it isn't comfortable.

Gabryel said...

Hey Guy, I haven't had a chance to read Alan's blog on his thoughts about preaching. But here is one other thing I think we need to adjust as the "chruch".

When I read Acts and even the Gospels of Jesus, I notice that all the preaching that went on was #1-Outdoors and #2 - directed towards Unbelievers. And in regards to prayer - that was done Indoors (inside the "church"). We're doing most of our praying privately in our homes.

I strongly believe we need to switch this around in order to have the impact the church of Acts had on it's generation.

Preach outdoors to the lost - Pray indoors with the saved.

We need to come together (in the church) in powerful prayer vigiles like in the upper room - to get full of God's presense, power and boldness. To then to take it to the streets and preach from the roof tops the eternal gospel of our Lord Jesus.

And then with those that come in from the Harvest - these are the ones we need to TEACH - not preach to.

Just my humble thoughts.


Joe Kennedy said...

I love that you're bringing this up. I've been tweeting about that same thing all evening.

GuyMuse said...

Dennis: I think most of us do what we do because by it is easier to have one person stand up and talk, than it is to engage some of the other forms of communication. Also when we stand up and do the talking, we are in control.

Greg: Tradition has a lot to do with it. That is just the way we do things!

Gabryel: I totally agree with your observations. What you say about Preach outdoors to the lost - Pray indoors with the saved. is pretty much what I see in the NT as well.

Joe: Thanks for stopping by. If you haven't read Alan's post where this came from, and the original source, it is quite interesting reading.

Michelle Ann said...

This is very interesting... I know for me, I retain more of a message if I am taking notes, but as you outlined, it's only a brief bit of the sermon anyhow.
Is it a coincidence that we learn the most when we are teaching others (i.e. fulfilling the Great Commission and getting involved in people's lives and making disciples?) I think not.
This post is an encouragement to me to get involved in sharing my story, in teaching God's Word, and sharing what I am learning from my heart with others. I know that when I am obedient and do this, my heart is blessed with so many "ah-ha" moments that in turn, teach me.
Thank you, again!

GuyMuse said...


I think you have hit upon the essence of what this study is trying to point out when you say, Is it a coincidence that we learn the most when we are teaching others (i.e. fulfilling the Great Commission and getting involved in people's lives and making disciples?) I agree. We retain the most, learn the most, grow the most, when we are out there teaching/discipling others. The problem seems that only a few are willing to be the ones to go, disciple, teach, and too many are content to sit and listen to someone else.

Darrell said...

Hi Guy, I am catching up on my reading. Thanks for bringing up this very important point. I have been making it for years. We abandoned "preaching" as a means of making disciples to obey all that Jesus commanded.

It is astounding to me that this method continues to be the main method despite the obvious fact that it does not work.

Keep sounding the alarm!

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for checking in again to the M Blog. I guess hiking the Grand Canyon has had you thinking about things other than communication styles? :)