Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is your Bible broadband? updated

Before you answer, think about the most recent church service you went to. Think about what practices affirmed the Bible was for the I, the individual? And think about what practices affirmed the Bible was for the we, the church?

bookkells.jpg So, is the Bible for the I, the individual? Or is the Bible for the we, the church?

Updated: Marty made this great comment, which I add below, plus a bold a contrary, counter practice, that I employed at Opawa on Sunday, as part of our “we engagement”. (This is not to say we’ve got it sussed, simply because I suspect that it is in this detail that the conversation needs to happen).

1. In our church, the preacher reads from the Scripture (most of the time) and then preaches from it (most of the time). Nobody else in the building gets to comment in that forum. No other voice is heard. Is the Bible just for the preacher? The congregations were asked what strategies they employed to discover the meaning of a new word, and the sermon was then shaped by the responses

2. Everyone is passive before the Scripture as the pastor preaches. Very little attempt is made to get people to process ideas for themselves. Must the Scripture be read in silence? respondents included a 8 year old boy and 4 others

3. Very little reference is made to the place of the Bible in the church member’s life outside of Sunday. Is the Bible for Sunday only? the sermon included the challenge for us to walk in the Spirit around our block and offered a range of practical ways to do this via a response form including preparing meals, emergency prayer, going on community prayer walks etc

4. Very few laymen get access to the pulpit. Is the Bible only understood by the ‘experts’? during the offering their was an open mic time, when as part of the offering, anyone was invited to share how the previous Pentecost weekend had helped them learn about the Spirit. In this way, the voice of the community was heard, and what was said was woven into the offering prayer

5. The Bible is usually only opened in the Sunday service after the children have been ‘removed’ to the children’s programme. Is the Bible only for adults? A psalm was used to kick off worship (although it was read by worship leader ie not call and response on any way.

6. Very few people bring their Bibles to church. Is there no link between home and church, as far as the Bible is concerned?

7. 70 minutes of the 75 minute service is filled with the voices of the preacher, worship leader, singers and church business. Does God’s ‘voice’ get drowned out? Why don’t we hear the Bible for half an hour?

Can we keep the comments going …. the particular practices which surround our use of the Bible ….

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

13 Comments

  1. Steve, love the Qs you’re asking lately.

    One of the things that first struck me about my current congregation was that the Bible was read so differently: aloud; together; and to form and transform, not just inform or reform.

    It’s far from a perfect congregation, but this alone has been a massive blessing, and there are plenty of other things too.

    Comment by Cam — May 19, 2008 @ 12:07 am

  2. Isn’t it for both? or am I just simplifying things too much?

    The “we” in church is made up of many “I”s individuals. It addresses us individually as well as corporately as a body.

    2Tim 3:16, 17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

    Comment by JD — May 19, 2008 @ 11:50 am

  3. JD, I know about 2 Timothy, althougth I personally think that verse applies to women as well as men.

    What I’m asking what actually happens in practice. Love to know from the last time you attended church, what actually happened in terms of how the Bible was used.

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 19, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  4. Both – we read a passage out together. We heard about how God had called and commissioned individuals to show his love and compassion for those around them. We pondered on a passage individually. We listened to a song partly taken from scripture. We had comtemplative time to reflect on our lives and what God is asking of us.

    Comment by karen — May 20, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  5. I was reminded recently that the texts of the NT were never originally read alone and silently. They were read together and out loud! Until Gutenberg there were only 30 or so Bibles in Europe – how did Christians in these times develop and sustain their faith? It left me reflecting on preaching and the need for ‘individual’ bible study. I wonder if prayer was and maybe is more formative (although I think personal study of scripture is important)?

    Comment by mark — May 20, 2008 @ 11:14 am

  6. sounds wonderful Karen.

    Mark, so your answer is have less Bibles is it? while i totally agree with you, we can’t go back. we are here now, in a world awash with information.

    churches stuff us into the mould of I – I the minister will interpet this text to you, the I, in the pew, who will add this to the I they get listening to the TV preacher and the I from the daily quiet time.

    how today, now do we cultivate the we? I have some ideas, but I am keen to hear what others are doing ….. positive and negative …..

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 20, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  7. My response is to have less ‘I’ bible and more ‘we’ bible – We are the scripture reading community and we should read it together in groups and as an assembled congregation (acknowledging that our culture reads alone also). One of things I love about Anglican liturgy is how the text forms the service and is read aloud and throughout the service.

    I wonder if ‘how’ this might be undertaken may be incarnational. For instance I have previously felt that the emerging/post-modern approach was the best for all people. However, is it not the Spirit who is at work amongst culture revealing Christ? This has a two fold outworking: 1) The Spirit is at work revealing God personally (one on one with us as his people) 2) As we interpret the Spirit’s work within the community we may see what methods God might be using to reveal Himself. So, within your context Steve, the way you interpret the text for your community may be different for the way we might for ours. However, both are unique and verifiable incarnations of God to his people within their context and culture.

    I wonder if we need to think less of the emerging church and more of the church that is emerging within our particular context as a work of the Spirit??? (sorry I know this is a little off of the topic). I love the challenge of the ‘we’ over the ‘I’ but admit it will look different for you than us.

    One thing we do is (and I kind of borrowed this from espresso) is to have a group who meet on Thursday and ‘dwell’ in the text. It begun originally as a response to a series I preached on Abraham. Some people were struggling with ‘the God of the OT’ so I invited them to our home to look at the text together and to just chat openly and without agenda around their questions. What has developed is a group who now meet regularly to ‘dwell’ in the text and ask questions of it and of each other – as opposed to a BIble study group that seeks to ‘fill in the blanks’ and pre-supposes the questions. This group rarely provides answers however, people seem to be discovering some. Of course this often leads to more questions!

    Just my thoughts :-)

    Comment by mark — May 20, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  8. 1. In our church, the preacher reads from the Scripture (most of the time) and then preaches from it (most of the time). Nobody else in the building gets to comment in that forum. No other voice is heard. Is the Bible just for the preacher?
    2. Everyone is passive before the Scripture as the pastor preaches. Very little attempt is made to get people to process ideas for themselves. Must the Scripture be read in silence?
    3. Very little reference is made to the place of the Bible in the church member’s life outside of Sunday. Is the Bible for Sunday only?
    4. Very few laymen get access to the pulpit. Is the Bible only understood by the ‘experts’?
    5. The Bible is usually only opened in the Sunday service after the children have been ‘removed’ to the children’s programme. Is the Bible only for adults?
    6. Very few people bring their Bibles to church. Is there no link between home and church, as far as the Bible is concerned?
    7. 70 minutes of the 75 minute service is filled with the voices of the preacher, worship leader, singers and church business. Does God’s ‘voice’ get drowned out? Why don’t we hear the Bible for half an hour?

    I could go on…

    Comment by Marty — May 20, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  9. Marty,
    this is really helpful and i am adding it to the blogpost, as it is precisely these type of practices that need to be named and analysed,

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 21, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

  10. For the last few weeks I’ve been leading a conversation rather than just preaching in our Later Evening service. This is a place where people expect interaction and a changing style.

    The subjects have been baptism, where we considered Paul’s teaching in Romans 6, and Baptism, where we looked att he story fo the travellers ont he road to Emmaus in Luke 24.

    The Baptism conversation led to a great depth of personal experience and reflection coming out of the congregation, but when we turned to reading and discussing the text the conversation dried up at touch.

    This last week, we had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation about communion, and then i invited people to sit and prayerfully read the passage for 7 minutes whilst we played some quiet background music. At the end of this time i invited the conversation to continue, in the light ofd the bible passage we’d read. This was amuch richer conversation, as people relatesd thier insights, new understandings and experiences to the passage.

    I’m not going to stop doing this anytime soon. In terms of people engaging with a message it rocks.

    It takes just as much perparation, and it takes a skill and keen listening to listen and sometimes summarise things, and to have a sense of the direction you might want to take the conversation. But it held people’s attention, many of whom were overjoyed at the difference between a conversation they were involved in and interested in, and a sermon that they might well have heard before.

    Jonathan

    Comment by Jonathan — May 21, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

  11. I’m glad you invited further comments; just this Sunday my congregation tried adding an ‘ask what you want’ segment at the end of the sermon. It began very slowly, but was still a big step for many. The best part was, however, that we also had the opportunity to _answer_ what you want. I was very encouraged by the amount of discussion that was about ‘us’ as well as about ‘me’. The thought of preaching an AWYW is appropriately exciting and scary!

    Another thing I often do when I preach is memorise the text. This takes a fair bit of time, but has become easier with practice, and I hope that it subtly models the value I place on internalising of the scriptures. It also allows more more eye contact and expression during the ‘reading’. Perhaps inferences could be drawn from always looking away from each other to read the Scriptures, so instead I hope to imply that speaking the Scriptures doesn’t have to compromise the interpersonal character of communication. FWIW.

    Comment by Cam — May 21, 2008 @ 11:51 pm

  12. Jonathon wrote “It takes just as much perparation, and it takes a skill and keen listening to listen and sometimes summarise things” … and I say absolutely.

    it’s a whole new set of skills – including creating a safe space, mirroring, asking questions, noting absent voices and finding ways to welcome them into the conversation, dropping in more information not to own or recapture the conversation but to deepen.

    i could go on. as i tell my classes, its a whole new set of muscles. noone gave up on the whole genre of expository preaching after my first sermon. they allowed me to grow and develop and they as a congregation had years of training. we need to apply the same courtesy to giving congregations a voice.

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 22, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  13. Super intersting post. It’s a great question.

    Comment by Brett — May 22, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.