Over at Cerulean Sanctum, Dan muses about the question, whether pulpit preaching is an effective tool to create disciples. While I certainly do not agree with everything he says, his four ingredients four effective disciple-making had me thinking about the way I preach. Some preliminary conclusions …
As Dan correctly points out, intimacy has a lot to do with overcoming distance. While, certainly, it is never possible to make a public sermon seem like a one-to-one or even a small group conversation, there are things you can do to get closer to the people. For me, this begins by not hiding behind a pulpit (I don’t have a pulpit), nor a big bible, nor a microphone, nor anything else. Usually, when I’m preaching, I’m walking close to the people — down at their level, even though we have a raised stage platform.
Dan uses this point to emphasize the significance of love lived out in the church body. It’s true that this is of spreme importance, but as soon as the sermon is embedded in the context of these loving relationships and the preacher himself is clearly a part of this powerful social network, it will also profit from them. Of course, it is true that this somewhat speaks against the effectiveness of guest speakers — but, I guess, there are other things that they’ll profit from.
(3) Holy moments
I’m not sure about Dan’s vague definition of „holy moments“ („the Holy Spirit broods over us?“), but I agree that it’s important for the audience to get a chance to experience and not just hear the message. We try to do this by visual presentations, drama, audience participation, all kinds of hands-on illustrations (like my cooking during one of my sermons :-)) and sometimes symbolic actions to respond to the message.
Even after reading Doug Pagitt on participatory preaching, I’m still not sure about how well open discussion would integrate into a preaching time in my church context. We try to connect the sermon to our small groups‘ meetings in the following week, by providing further questions for study and thought. This way, the application part of the sermon is partially tranferred into the small group context, with its stronger intimacy and relationships (see above) and improved context for discussion.