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)
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! =)