Tuesday, November 28

Alternatives to monologue preaching

George Patterson & Galen Currah offer the following alternatives for monologue preaching in new works. I have found this article (reproduced in part here) to be quite helpful and practical in our own local work...
Why offer alternatives to monologue preaching from behind pulpits? After all, monologue is the only style that many Christians know. Few realize that the Word of God sets forth very different styles of teaching that have proven to be consistently more effective.

...The sermon, as a form of monologue, preached by paid specialists, has mostly replaced New Testament practices for teaching believers. Eloquent and persuasive preachers of monologue sermons have often swayed audiences and nations, and God has used His Word to win and edify many with such messages. However, where churches and cells reproduce in great numbers — as is the case in many lands today — few are able to preach well by monologue. Most who try to preach monologues communicate poorly, set an example that others cannot easily follow, and fail to make disciples.

Both the New Testament and church planting movements offer very effective alternatives to the monologue. As mentors of emerging leaders of new congregations, we should be able to train others in these alternatives.

Dialogue. (Acts 17:2; 20:7; 17:11; 24:25) The apostles preferred to “dialogue” with both seekers and believers, both individuals and groups. Dialogue, conversations with a purpose, allow a teacher to answer folk’s questions, allay their fears, inform their ignorance, appeal to their conscience, and help them choose what they will do. Believers are to teach and instruct “one another” (Col. 3:16; Rom 15:14). Dialogue is easier to do in small groups than in big congregations. Since most folks already know how to dialogue with their friends and relatives, doing so is a superior way to share about Jesus and the way of life that He calls everyone to follow.

Gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12:7; 14:24-26) A primary task of those who shepherd flocks is to ensure that all the believers have time and opportunity to serve one another. In doing so, their gifts of the Spirit will “manifest” and many will be helped and strengthened. In fact, as all the believers share one with another, even unsaved folks who listen to them will see their own need and turn to Jesus. Gifts of the Spirit manifest more readily in small groups where believers see each other face-to-face and have freedom to speak one to another.

Demonstrations of power. (1 Cor 2:1-5; 1 Thes 1:4-6) The reality and truth of the Word of God are learned more from experience than by listening to logical discourses. One of the main tasks of those who shepherd flocks is to ensure that all the believers have time and opportunity to pray for one another, and to show love within their worship. As they do so, the Holy Spirit will work many miracles of healing and deliverance.

Drama and role play. Drama and story-telling remain universally appealing to all classes of society, and are a preferred leaning style in many of the more neglected societies. Men and women, young and old, can act out Bible stories that illustrate every major doctrine of Christianity. So doing also allows children to participate actively in worship. Brief role plays, presented with little preparation and without costumes, can prove both entertaining and evocative. A skit, followed by reading a Bible text, can open up discussion and help folks to apply truth to their lives and work. Furthermore, even the newest believers can participate.

Questions and answers. Folks have genuine questions and issues for which they seek help and answers. If we cannot answer a question, then let us admit so and promise to find answers.
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Darrell said...

Guy I LOVE Patterson! We were honored to have him come an do a weekend training with us this year. This post reminded me of something I wrote 2 years ago. I thought I would share it. In our churches we stress that whatever we do MUST accomplish its goal. The method must serve the desired outcome. As a result we RARELY "preach". We have become very creative in methods that really do equip the saints. I think this is a HUGE issue. Thanks for bring it up.

The 10% Rule
It is generally accepted that only 10% of a church does what is taught after a typical sermon. Did you just understand what you just read? Can you even remember what was taught 2 weeks ago in your church? If you ran a fast food restaurant and only 10% of your employees did what you told them, would you continue to do business as usual for years? Of course not! You would change either how you train them or you would get different workers. Why are we willing to continue this insanity in the church for years? Well we cannot “fire” the saints so we better find a better way to train them. There are lots of ways that work far better then our current methods. “They” say that we remember 20% of what we hear, and 50% of what we see and hear. What do you think the percentage is for remembering things that people actually teach? It is in the 90’s. Look at the following graph:

Sorry I couldn't get it on here.

The simple church’s approach to teaching through relationship, discussion, and doing is a far better way. Just look at how Jesus developed His disciples. He did not teach them in a class. He taught them in the context of being a disciple. He sent them out on missions, He discussed things with them, He asked them questions, and He delegated important tasks that they were not ready for. How can this happen the way the church currently functions? What good reason is there to continue a method of teaching that doesn’t teach. If we really care about the glory of God then we must be willing to do what the leaders of Jesus time were unwilling to do. We must humble ourselves, repent from our ways, and change. May God grant His church the grace to admit its failure and change.

J. Guy Muse said...


We too have been greatly helped by the teachings of George Patterson.

Your 10% rule is quite interesting and is at the heart of partly why I believe God is blessing so greatly around the world. When people get it into their heads they too are a MINISTER, a PRIEST, a SERVANT of the most High, rather than someone sitting back and expecting to be fed year in and year out, there is a marked difference in the kind of Christianity exhibited.

Tim Patterson said...


I am still catching up with your posts. Thanks for reminding us "how" we teach/preach is as important as the content.

We use story telling, dialogue, drama/singing, and questions/answers in our leader training, entry strategies and house church life. These are natural forms of communication among our focus people. Modeling these forms in context is powerful and produces results. Of course, our national partners do a much better job than we do.

Alan Knox said...

It is amazing to me that those within a "missions" context are more likely to question some of the accepted practices within the church. Meanwhile, here in the "home country," if a church doesn't "preach" the right way, then they must have a low view of Scripture. Thank you for pointing us to this article.
- Alan

Asesor Homeschooling para Chile said...

Muchas gracias por sus palabras en mi blog, hermano. Te las agradezco.
No estoy viviendo en Cuba. Estoy en el exilio.

¡Bendiciones de lo Alto!

Anonymous said...

Apreciado y admirado Guy:
Pienso que Darrel expuso la esencia de mi comentario con claridad y amplitud.
Con excepción de los sermones que Jesucristo, nuestro primer maestro, realizó ante multitudes, sus enseñanzas fueron dadas mediante el diálogo. Hoy día lo llamaríamos algo así como "método interactivo".
Una de las grandes enseñanzas de Jesucristo, brindada a través de su ejemplo, fue la de saber amoldarse a las circunstancias para aprovechar al máximo las palabras, el tiempo y el espacio.
Un abrazo faterno
Desde Buenos Aires

PS: Si lo prefiere escribiré los comentarios en inglés. De otra manera seguiré con el español. Me resulta más comodo encontrar las palabras adecuadas en este idioma.
Y evito errores y horrores gramaticales -je, jé...-
Digo, pensando en los demás que comentan (Todos en inglés).

J. Guy Muse said...


Glad to hear from you again, it's been a while. I found it interesting that you write you use dialogue, storying,etc. for TRAINING. That is something I hadn't thought about as much as I probably should have. Thanks for the heads-up!


Yes, in our context "preaching" as is known back home, is more likely to kill a new church plant, than to strengthen a new work. The reason is that learning to preach takes a gifted person, plus lots of education and preparation. Our bi-vocational leaders spend their days earning their living and have little time for formal education. We do what we can for them with the TEE, but we are forced to find alternatives for monologue preaching and in the long run have found them to be more effective and edifying to the church in general. That's not to say we don't ever preach. I am often invited to come "share" with the church and what I do will take the form of preaching, but it is not our usual format.

St. Jose,

Thanks for your visit! Tu pagina es algo extraordinaria y bella - great blog you have, indeed. Feel free to comment anytime.


Sientese con toda libertad de comentar en Ingles o Español. Either language is fine. My grammar isn't always the greatest either! Lo que compartio Darrell es muy bueno. Si no has visitado su pagina, hagalo alguna vez. El esta plantando una nueva iglesia con todos los dolores de parto implicados!

Coloradonegrito said...

I agree. I even get bored with my own preaching!!! It is unlikely in a monologue that we can possibly scratch everyone where they are itching. The more interaction the better.

Anonymous said...

I know YWAM uses this material but with their history of abuse I am cautious but still overall good reading.

J. Guy Muse said...


Good to hear from you. We keep up a bit with your comings and goings through your wife's blog. Drop us a line when you get a chance.


Thanks for your visit. I am unaware of any history of abuse with these materials. Check out the link at the end of the article for further information about the materials.

J. Guy Muse said...


As usual Guy, your blog seems to be addressing the very same issues that we are grappling with!

I was becoming frustrated with a feeling that very little of my preaching was resulting in a change of practice by the church members so earlier this year I began an "interactive service". This is a cafe-style worship environment where we sit around tables and sing
worship songs accompanied by a CD player. We then share testimonies of what God is doing in our lives. Sometimes we guide people through a time of confession. The scripture is read out and someone leads a time of discussion. There are typically 5-6 people around each table who discuss together before the "preacher" takes feedback in plenary reinforcing the learning as he/she does so.

In our more traditional services I am trying to be more imaginative in using parables and stories. The majority of english church-goers are very passive and not terribly curious. But if some begin seeking it will be a result.

This Sunday in the traditional service I will be preaching on Luke 14:15-24 (the Great Banquet). As the congregation arrives in church they are all given hymn books and a noticesheet. This week they will also receive an invitation to a party in heaven. I intend to get everyone who has an invitation to get out of their seats to form a big circle. They will then be
invited to pat the person in front on the back whilst receiving a pat on the back from the person behind.

I am hoping that this will engage everyone in the smug sentiment expressed by the Pharisee's guest in verse 15. We will then explore why Jesus was not particularly impressed.

I am also hoping that one or two will not receive an invitation and I will ask them how it feels to be left out.

I hope my thoughts are helpful.

Keep up the good work.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for this good and timely input on how to put some of Patterson's ideas to work out there in the "real world" where we all live and work. Let us know how things turned out!