“The principles of teaching and learning as famously expressed by an Eastern philosopher over two and half thousand years ago and as reaffirmed by a twenty first century Western university study haven’t changed one iota”
The Monologue Culture ~ PART 1
Seasoned Oration Producing Weak Christians
I would dearly love to write a full-blown, detailed study of this matter but that would require the time and patience of producing a full book rather than a short online article. So, for the sake of getting this done I am going to have to settle for an overview of this topic rather than attempt to explain every aspect and answer every possible objection. As with all things spiritual the reader/hearer will either allow themselves to be persuaded by what the Bible actually reveals on the topic or they will close their eyes, close their ears and take refuge in that great stronghold of tradition!
So far as I’m concerned there is one main reason to produce any Christian article and that is the edification of other believers, which in turn will glorify God. So before I start listing some Greek words and getting all analytical let me explain why I believe that this topic is so vital for strong, healthy Christian growth. I’m going to start by taking the unusual step of quoting a philosopher rather than a biblical author. Part of my reason for quoting a non-biblical source is because I want to make the point that this is as much a ‘natural’ principle as a ‘spiritual’ one. In actual fact the vast majority of things we call spiritual work out from the natural laws that God has written into His creation (1Cor 15:46). There are exceptions, sometimes things take place that do not follow natural laws, and these we call ‘miracles’ but most of the time God works in our lives in harmony with His natural laws – miracles are the exception to the normal ‘rules’ of the world God has created. The natural principles of teaching and learning apply as much to studying the Bible as they do to studying the sciences or art. There are however some additional factors involved in properly understanding spiritual things (John 7:17 primarily) but we cannot explore this angle of the topic in this article, but whatever additional factors come into play they do not negate the universal, God-given principles of learning.
Onto that extra-biblical, but well-known, quotation then…
Confucius was a man who observed much about living on earth below, though he may not have known God above, but he is reputed to have said:
“Tell me and I will forget; Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I will understand.”
This saying has been frequently quoted by those involved with teaching and learning in all disciplines down the centuries ever since. Why? Because, regardless of the subject being taught, it has proved time and again to be an unfailing universal ‘law’. For people to really learn and progress in any matter simply being ‘told’ is not effective, they must instead be ‘involved’.
In recalling to mind this profound statement I went in search of the exact quotation and just happened to find it on a University website. Along with the citation were some other interesting statements about learning and some fascinating modern research results, which concluded:
“From various research sources we know that we remember from:” *(See note below)
- The Lecture (5%)
- Reading (10%)
- Audio Visual (20%)
- Demonstration (30%)
- Discussion group (50%)
- Practice by doing (75%)
- Teaching others (90%)
[*PLEASE NOTE: SINCE PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE I HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL POINTING OUT THAT THE ABOVE RESEARCH MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FULLY VALIDATED. I THEREFORE GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE ABOVE LIST MAY NOT BE WHOLLY OR CONSISTENTLY PROVED ACCURATE, ALTHOUGH I WOULD SAY FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE THAT THESE UNVERIFIED FIGURES PROBABLY DO REPRESENT A GENERAL PRINCIPLE THAT I BELIEVE MANY PEOPLE COULD ANECDOTALLY CONFIRM]
So, the principles of teaching and learning as famously expressed by an Eastern philosopher over two and a half thousand years ago and as reaffirmed by a twenty first century Western university study haven’t changed one iota. Of course, should the Bible cut across this assumption and reveal that in God’s Kingdom learning and growing works in an entirely different manner then in that case we would have to reject the ‘natural’ in favour of an opposing ‘spiritual’ principle. But the Bible does not reveal any such differing principle. As we walk with The Lord and continue to read His Word we do discover that there are depths and heights in ‘addition to’ these ‘natural’ principles but nothing that ever negates them. (I once again refer the reader to John 7:17 in order to bring the balance here).
Now, what is all this leading to? My entire preamble is leading to addressing a practice in churches that has been established for hundreds of years (following the close of the early New Testament era) and has always been counterproductive in its attempt at edifying (building up) the Body of Christ. It is known commonly as ‘Preaching’, ‘The Sermon’, ‘The Ministry’, ‘The Message’, ‘God’s Word’ and no doubt by a few other terminologies. The applied terminologies are sometimes biblical words and phrases and sometimes not but the practice I wish to address (the culture of monologue) is most definitely not one to be found anywhere in the New Testament.
But didn’t Jesus preach the ‘sermon on the mount’ you ask? Actually, No, He didn’t! The word “sermon” is not a Bible word or concept. I’ll try to deal with that word in the briefest terms a little further on. OK, so that’s just a terminology thing, let’s leave aside the word ‘sermon’ and ask, Didn’t Jesus, Peter, Paul and others ‘preach’ at all? Yes, they did, that much is correct. They did ‘preach’ and ‘teach’ and their preaching and teaching were directed to both believers and unbelievers. However, just as so many other Bible words have been abused and misused (I’d better not begin the list!) and have had their meanings subtly changed, so have the words ‘teach’ and ‘preach’ been severely corrupted. So much so, that the proper Biblical practices of preaching and teaching have, for the most part, been altogether abandoned and replaced with ‘monologue sermons’.
One last point I wish to make by way of introduction is that this article is not going to be focusing on where and why things changed and who is to blame. Oh, I am not going to shy away from saying plainly that there are some persistent monologists who would find it quite difficult to just be ‘one of the listeners’ instead of one of the speakers. There are also many among the passive masses who just couldn’t comprehend a ‘church service’ without the monologue and have no desire whatsoever to be ‘involved’ or in any way ‘visible’ or ‘audible’ during a meeting. The ‘sermon’ has a history of tradition that is overwhelmingly seductive and all that are a part of that tradition know only too well that the ‘service’ is built around the ‘sermon’. For most, just like any other area of church practice, it is simply ‘how church is done’. It’s what we came into, and for those who feel any sense of gifting in the area of ‘preaching and teaching’ it appears to be the perfectly natural and normal way ahead in expressing these gifts – except, it isn’t! Let’s move on and discover what the New Testament teaches us about ‘Preaching’ and ‘Teaching’. We’ll cover the word ‘Exhortation’ too.
Go to PART 2 of this article: Word Study: PREACH