Facebook theology – On preaching, teaching and the Church

ImageI posted something the other day on Facebook (on Google+ actually, but it was also shared to Facebook). A few “likes” and “comments” followed and I found myself writing/posting comments about theological issues. I want to post the comments here… not because anything earth-shattering was being said, but because, for the sake of posterity, it’s an interesting case on how theology (conversation) can develop in today’s age. And thus, keeping the focus on dialogue, the emphasis is that talking, responding AND WRITING, is a good foundation for growing in theology and becoming mature theologians.

(nb. In most cases, I’m not correcting the grammar/spelling of comments, and keeping it as is, unless it distracts too much from the central message. I’m also keeping the names hidden for privacy reasons.)

NAyK Original post: John Stott once wrote that Jesus never “retreated behind the safety of a pulpit” rather he “spoke in settings where people were bold enough to talk back.” Would be interesting if more of us teachers would not retreat behind the safety of the lectern, so that our students would become bold enough to talk back. (bold enough to disagree/provide alternatives/and sometimes even ask questions that they would not dare ask authority figures)

BC Comment: Not using lectern or pulpit would be a good start, I think.

DA Comment: But its helpful to also remember that John Stott fervently believed in preaching…..which is different from dialogue and discussion. the pulpit only serves that end. The pulpit is not the issue, its the content of our preaching is. there are lots of speakers on God tv and youtube you don’t use pulpits but terribly misuse the scriptures…..there is a time for preaching there is a time for discussion. both are important and needed. Pulpit is sometimes just symbolic of the fact that the written word of God proclaimed and imparted to us by his Spirit is of supreme importance. This is why some traditional churches have pulpits up in front and sometimes high up. I think that’s great. But sadly the content of the preaching in many (not all) mainline churches is scriptural. There are few things more powerfully than a preacher who preaches the word of God accurately from a pulpit.

DA next comment: Sorry my point may seem a bit scrambled up, but its facebook after all…….and one more point- this is why house churches have thrown out the baby with the bath water….

NAyK (my) response: To DA, Wow, that was a big dismissal of “house churches”… perhaps you mean a certain type of “house churches” or even just one particular type ;) . (There are many models of house churches).

About preaching + pulpit, the issue is “power” and while the content ideally should be the word of God, as you noted, it is not always. And so… there seems to be a need for the congregation to “correct”, or at least “test” the preacher—Berean example, whether during or after the service. But instead, the pulpit has become a sacred fortress that legitimizes/authorizes the speaker… regardless of content (or character). Thus, the “safety” comment by Stott.

Nevertheless, my note is about education/teaching… and there hopefully you would appreciate a more open model… where the teacher does not simply deliver lecture notes (hence the lectern) but actually engages with students allowing dialogue/discussion, even disagreement.

SD Comment: I agree NAyK, although the teacher or preacher should not let the dialogue go off topic or disrupt the class/service, so that the whole group may benefit from the teaching. Although, come to think of it, Jesus several times turned a ‘distraction’ into an important teaching. Wish I could attend one of your classes!

DA Comment: Hi NAyK, first of all i admit i didn’t read carefully that you were talking about teachers and students in a classroom setting right?…about the “power” problem that’s exactly why i believe in plurality of leaders – elder-led churches….and secondly why I also [believe that] individual churches should have autonomy in functioning as opposed to the typical episcopal form of government….so this whole thing relates to all the wider topic of church government.

NAyK (my) response: Hi DA. Wow, from where to where. :) Yes, elder-led churches does help address the issue of [power by] keeping fellow elders in check, so that even if the congregation does not correct the pastor, the fellow elders can. The only problem is that if there emerges a (natural/common) hierarchy within the elders and then we’re back to square one, where one individual again exerts greater power and sometimes prevents others from disagreeing with him.

Speaking on Church government… it’s a really practical thing, and much needed. However, I tend to prefer a more “spirtualistic” (theological) approach when talking about Church governance (shows that I’m not, and hopefully will never be, a pastor in the formal sense). I feel that fellowship of elders is important, nevertheless, the Church must always insist on the priority of God, and the priority of Word, above the pastoring/preaching team so that whenever they speak, they remind the congregation that they speak as interpreters of the Word, rather than as equal to the Word. Too often, we have made our pastors as equal to prophets, who are saying the very words of God. On one sense, this is true, “by faith” (as John Stott, again, would emphasise),

Nevertheless, I feel, the pastor himself must constantly remind the congregation that he is but an interpreter, and thus he must call on the congregation to improve their own interpretation (even if it means that eventually members of the congregation will exceed the pastor). The pastor/elders must invite the congregation to learn to interpret (and improve), then I think the leadership is truly accountable to the Word, and the correct governing structure is in place.

Otherwise, the congregation simply comes to the pastor as the equal to God’s voice, without consciously recognising that they [too] are responsible to interpret God’s word. The congregation must be allowed to see that the pastor, along with the fellowship of elders, are fellow interpreters, though of course by calling, gifting, training, … perhaps more advanced. The congregation must see itself as participating through the listening, the recalling and even their own eventual witnessing/preaching/communicating through that very model of interpretation that the pastor/elders have expressed. Sometimes that will mean, even disagreeing.

(More comments may follow. This is not a closed post)


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Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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