Monday, June 07, 2004


in response to the question What did your pastor preach on last Sunday, the Sunday before that, and three weeks ago:

The question assumes that it is important to recall and remember. It assumes the priority on cognitive recall of information. An interesting assumption … is the gospel about cognitive recall?

I don’t think so. Let me apply the question to other things in life; I can’t remember conversations with my wife, nor can I remember all the books I read or even films I watched. But they are still important in terms of building community and relaxation. I guess my point is – the question is a good way to beat up on preaching, but I think the question operates on a modernist assumption that knowing information is important. It fails to take into account a whole lot of other ways of being; space to process, rest, inspiration, confirmation, storytelling in the community, creation of shared values.

Posted by steve at 04:44 PM


  1. Of course the gospel isn’t about cognitive recall – but we aren’t debating the ‘gospel’. We are looking one form of communication and I am exploring its effectiveness and limitations.

    Neither, I would argue, does the question operate on a modernist assumption. It does suggest that most preaching (one to many / monologue communcation) has modernist biases and therefore questions the merit of it as a mode of communication.

    “The question posed assumes that it is important to recall and remember.” I reckon most preachers would hope that someone would be able to recall and remember the info provided each week hence the need for the question.

    Comment by hamo — June 7, 2004 @ 10:47 pm

  2. I posted this on Hamo’s blog:

    I’m not that bothered about whether people remember what I said, or even whether they grasp the concepts (although it makes for better conversation down the pub later if they do get some of it). It’s more important that people get some sense of engagement with the person.

    It’s clear that people’s recall of what Jesus actually said was pretty variable. But they didn’t forget HIM. When I preach, I hope that people will be more affected by the fact that they see me reflecting something of the life of God than by the conceptual arguments I may refer to.

    Undergrads in lectures forget (or don’t even register) most of what they hear in lectures. Teaching, even in an academic context, and expecially so in Church, is more about engaging people with the desire to learn and grow. I always say that I don’t want to tell my students WHAT to think, I want to teach them HOW to think. Same goes for preaching.

    Comment by maggi — June 8, 2004 @ 3:06 am

  3. I was brought into a Christian upbringing from the age of 2. Thats when my mum become a Xn and took me to Sunday School etc. I had a SUPERB Sunday School experience. The teachers were enthusiastic, bible loving and child loving people.

    I can’t remember any specific instance of teaching but I remember they got us doing memory verses and a whole variety of biblically based fun “stuff”

    I would be sure that the number of verses I can remember now and the understanding I have of those verses came from those very kind and patient teachers but I can’t remember learning any of them – but I do know and love them now…

    I have quiet times on Monday nights with a friend wherein we discuss the meaning of particular verses and I (in all modesty because all of this originates from outside of me) nearly always have an opinion that starts with “I seem to recall that some scholars…” or “I think I read somewhere that…” – No idea where I got them from

    No SPECIFIC recollection but nonetheless a very real UNDERSTANDING and learning has taken place… sometime… from some kind person… ;o)

    Comment by Randall — June 8, 2004 @ 9:11 am

  4. hamo
    appreciate your thoughts but wonder if your last sentence again betrays the assumptions. you write “I reckon most preachers would hope that someone would be able to recall and remember the info.”

    this is my point – that the question defines preaching as about imparting information. i would argue preaching is not about information. so by asking “what do you recall,” you are assessing information, and the question thus displaces potentially many other dimennsions of being Christian together.

    only a modernist would ask for information.

    a premodernist might ask, did this show my loyalty to the tribe? a postmodernist might say, was this part of an experience or what did i appreciate more about this community.

    Ask a modernist question and you are bound to get a modernist answer.

    Comment by steve — June 9, 2004 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Sounds like you are defining preaching much more broadly. I am simply asking the question of what happens in most churches on most Sundays.

    Given that most churches operate in modernist paradigms I think they are probably shooting for info recall.

    Maybe I’m wrong there.

    Comment by hamo — June 10, 2004 @ 2:13 am

  6. hamo, i’m a bit lost here – i thought you were doing an emerging type thing and would want to be defining things more broadly. i didn’t think you were in a modernist church, so why would you be wanting to explore modernist preaching?

    sorry, i’m quite confused.

    Comment by steve — June 12, 2004 @ 1:42 pm

  7. 🙂 I dunno mate!

    We seem to be understanding our own comments but not each others.

    I think i’m making sense – you think you’re making sense – but we can’t make sense of each others ‘sense’.


    Why don’t we let it go and if / when we bump into one another in person we can talk it thru (if it even matters). Sometimes this medium can be a crappy means for communicating as we seem to be illustrating!

    I think we’re both kicking the ball the same direction so I’ll leave it at that for now – until one day we may meet…

    Comment by hamo — June 13, 2004 @ 3:00 pm

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