“Preaching” vs. “Good Teaching”

A close friend of mine who I love and respect asked me this question over text message a couple weeks ago:

“What role does preaching play in simple/house churches? Strengths, weaknesses, ways it could grow, ways it could teach the church.”

This friend of mine has been a part of many types of churches. We have also had the pleasure of starting a house church with his family and some others. He is sharp, loves Jesus, and wants the best for The Church. We have an incredible relationship, and sharpen one another in the areas we may disagree. The mutual respect is refreshing in a day in time where it seems all anyone wants to do is argue their viewpoint. My friend places a high value on “good teaching” (primarily in the form of sermon style preaching) I do not yet have the answer to this “issue” in terms of a house church setting. Below are the initial thoughts I sent back to him via email regarding this topic based upon our observations and past several years pursuing Jesus in the context of simple/organic/house church settings: (Would love to hear your thoughts on either/both ends of the spectrum. Us “house churchers” definitely have a lot to learn about how to champion “good teaching” & placing a high value on the Word of God in our various settings)

“Hey buddy,

The role of “preaching” in simple/house/organic churches is relatively non-existent in my experience. However, in some older generations of house churches their gatherings look much like a typical church service in a living room. The only difference is the type of structure they meet in…(even chairs in rows, and a podium, etc.-haha!=) In our experience (much different from the above described older generation HC’s) we have moved from a desire for good “preaching” to the pursuit of healthy’good “teaching”. (These are not synonymous in my mind, and the minds of many we have observed/practiced with) You see, many of us spent most of our lives listening to sermons. While they are not completely absent from the lives of those pursuing “house church”, it typically does NOT happen in a house church gathering for various reasons, and on purpose. (many may continue to find good sermons online and enjoy listening to them for various reasons) Our reasons for not involving “sermon style teaching” are numerous, but the most basic are below:

1) Practically speaking it has been proven that humans retain about 20% of what they hear. The percentage goes up drastically as you factor in SEEING (visual), WRITING, DOING, etc. So, I look at it (preaching) as a very use of time/energy based upon those findings. I know that growing up I was lucky to remember more than 1-2 “good points” I heard from a sermon. I might remember a bit more if I took notes-rarely would those notes be referenced in the future.

2) In a HC setting there is a high value for EVERYONE participating. If one person is PREACHING this becomes difficult, and we fall right back into spectators coming to hear a sermon. We place a high value on the Holy Spirit speaking to every believer, and know that Spirit speaks to everyone for the mutual edification of the body.

3) So, we seek for what we feel to be more effective ways to “teach”/equip the body. Of course, we are far from figuring this out, and it constantly changes as we pursue being more effective. Here are some examples of things we’ve done in the past:
-Inductive studies: these involve little to no “prep work” on the part of anyone, but make it easy for a believer of any age (including a brand new believer) to be empowered to play an active role. Sometimes ONE person WILL do some before hand research or read commentaries, etc. in order to guide the group as tough questions come up. This usually involves helping the group to understanding the historical context of the scripture, who is writing, who they are writing to, etc.
-Breaking up into groups to discuss portions of scripture. Coming back together to share findings/revelations/etc.
-Sharing at random what the Lord has been speaking to individuals throughout the week during their own personal time, etc.
-Reading through a section of scripture together and then discussing it as a church family. This is so fun because everyone involved has different backgrounds, knowledge, perspective, etc. Everyone benefits, and walks away sharpened, more equipped, and knowledgeable of the scriptures.

These are just some off the top of my head thoughts/responses to your question. I do think that “GOOD TEACHING” could improve in HC’s, and a higher value placed on studying/knowing scripture. However, I’m not convinced that this will be in the form of sermon style preaching. Again, preaching and teaching are much different to me. I also cannot ignore the sermon style preaching that is found in scripture. I wonder, though, if these types of “preaching moments” took place more in the form of evangelistic pursuits rather than the day to day equipping of disciples who make up the Church…this plays into my strong feelings about church services not being for the purpose of evangelism. Most sermons or churches try to accomplish both discipleship and evangelism in a once/week sermon. This is impossible to do, and BOTH get watered down/suffer.”

Again, I’d love to hear any thoughts/additions from you guys from your experience/convictions regarding this topic. Have fun, and keep it civil! =)


11 thoughts on ““Preaching” vs. “Good Teaching”

  1. This is such a good question. And, I believe, very apt to the moment.

    It is a question for our groups – vis do we believe that Jesus Christ still supplies the Church with the Ephesians 4 ministry gifts or is it only congregation-paradigm churches that get to receive from those?!

    It is a question for pastor/teachers – vis how do we teach in more intimate, relational settings. What forms of teaching are going to be on the menu. Chances are the sermon will find itself in a different place. If sermonising is going to be a part of the menu, then what does that look like in this setting. (Check out my post on “Paradigm-shifters & Pastor teachers” at http://www.paulwallis.net for my own experience on that front.)

    I am a teacher. That is the gift God has given me to build up to the Body of Christ. But even as a teacher I feel that the tradition of most congregations gives them too much teaching! Especially if the teaching we bring is relevant – to be thought about and acted on – then one good sermon a week is way too much! The very first element that shifted in my teaching menu when I began working with more intimate expressions of church was to bring teaching less than once a week so that we could get a chance to process what was being taught.

    Looking at the pastoral epistles it looks like teaching and hospitality were core ministries around the NT “elder” – and it may be fair to say that the church communities for which those letters were intended gathered around elders with a teaching gift. However, looking at Romans 16 and Paul’s other network-references it is clear that there were also missional churches that gathered around apostolic gifts such as Paul’s, Priscilla & Aquilla, Andronicus & Junia. Look in Acts and I reckon we see at least a couple of groups that were catalysed dually by gifts of teaching and hospitality. In our groups in JGen we tried to encourage gifts other than the teaching one to bring a focus to our times together. We did OK at bringing hospitality, prophetic and healing ministry further forward in our group-life than I have known in other settings.

    I may be missing something cross-culturally here, being a non-American – but for me the word preaching is not about what we do when gathered. To my understanding it is about the message we bring to the world. Unless we have crowds spontaneously gathering to hear lectures from us, that too needs reappropriating out of “monologue”/”lecture” format and bringing into a relational expression. In fact even crusade/platform evangelists of the C18th & C19th – people such as Moody in the U.S. & Spurgeon in the U.K. put a lot more emphasis on relational “preaching” (ie one-to-one, person-to-person, by regular believers) than they are often remembered for.

    These are random thoughts just after breakfast. But I hope they are helpful and make some sense.

  2. Yo bro,
    In my experience in house church, I’ve seen several versions. I’ve done the whole video sermon series which I recorded and distributed, and quickly realized it was not practical for time and for what would happen if I ever left (which I did end up moving). Now, I prefer those with the teaching gift to practice that gift–and a great teacher, at least in our culture, always elicits the participation of others while keeping the discussion on track (because some people can hijack a conversation). It can be done effectively, and everyone can still practice their gifts… while others discover theirs.

    • Great input Aaron. Love hearing about and seeing so many different ways people have pursued things in this context. Thanks!

      Aaron Snow 817.808.2520

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Aaron,

    i actually preached in a simple church not to long ago. I only went for about 20 minutes and tried to focus much of my material from a gospel perspective. I gave some time after for a response time. it was really awesome witnessing the Holy Spirit move. I talked to one girl after everything at a coffee shop and she felt like God was calling her not to be transient anymore as she had been a conference junkie just for the fellowship that she was not getting at her big church.

  4. Thanks Aaron!

    I read your post and i thought about that night and i guess from my experience, simple church preaching truly comes down to keeping things on one question, “what does this section of scripture tell us about Christ?” For example. When I was at this simple church I spoke on James 1 where it talks about how every good and perfect gift is given from above. my point in teaching on that scripture was that God gives us gifts for specific purposes.

    When I think about it, i have been in a simple church setting where the preaching would sometimes be done by putting some audio from someone else’s sermons. Doing such is ok every once in a while, but if there is a regular diet of that going on… the simple church suffers if there is someone with a teaching/preaching gift not being used. That’s why I want to train people in inductive Bible study so that those people with those giftings can be fully utilized in the body of Christ.

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  6. You have raised a very interesting question! The word “preach” in the Bible means “to announce, to proclaim”. It is purely an evangelical proclamation of the gospel. But to teach is to expound the Word of God, and to apply it in our context. You are correct in your assessment. A church does not need whole lot of evangelical message. A church is supposed to be a gatherers of believers in Christ. They need to be fed solid meat of teaching in everything. Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my flock”. We must not only appeal our teaching to the emotions of the heart, but also to the mind. We must love our God with our mind also. Modern church services started moving toward emotional appeal rather than feeding the saints’ minds. Acts 2:42 is very clear. They devoted themselves to “Apostles’ doctrines (teaching), Fellowshipping, breaking of bread, and Prayers. These are like 4 wheels, need to be well balanced for a good church.


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