It's been a while since I wrote on this... And much of what preaching with dialogue is can really be inferred from my post on what it is not. But let's think for a bit on what preaching with dialogue is, and sometime next week, we'll talk some mechanics... some lessons I have learned (and am still learning!)
1. I said in my last entry that preaching with dialogue 'is not a small group discussion writ large." What it is is an entire community coming to the Word of God in a listening pose. Now, I know that (at least in theory) that's no different than a sermon anywhere, in any church... and that's my point to the critics of this method. A whole community coming under the Word of God, together, is no different whether one person speaks, 2 people or 20. And the reason why this is specifically different than a small group discussion is the intentional driving towards the point of the text. Generally, in small group discussions, there's discussion around a theme or a question, and it tends toward the open-ended. That's fine in that context centered more on getting to know one another, but for the whole-community gathering, this is not what I'm advocating at all...
I'll describe more of how it looks for us in a bit, but suffice it to say, when I lead out in our discussions on Sunday, there's a point I want to get to- a place I want the whole community to go to, derived from the text. People are free to speak, to ask questions, to make points... but not to redirect, to hijack, to grandstand. The text, what it says and where it takes us is the determining factor, not "what everyone thinks." (and yes, the charge could be made by those who dislike the whole exercise of preaching that all of it is merely grandstanding- that the discussion is not so much driven by the text as by what one person thinks the text said, which ultimately is no different than a discussion driven by what 10 or 20 or 30 people think the text says. Here's where I think the value of things like Seminary and study and having a sermon dialogue led by someone who has poured hours into the prepapration and who is listening both to the needs of the community and to God comes in to the picture and keeps (ideally) the whole thing where it needs to be- centered on the text and what God is saying to the community)
2. I also said in my last post on this that preaching with dialogue is NOT a pooling of ignorance, as some high-profile preachers have called it. What it is, is believing not only that Jesus is the pastor of the Church, but the Holy Spirit is its teacher. And it is believing that the Holy Spirit has taught more than one person in the room. And it is making room for the Holy Spirit to speak through and teach the community through more than one person.
I recognize my role as teaching pastor in the community. I take it seriously. But in the same way that I as pastor take a back seat to Pastor Jesus, the real Shepherd, so I take a back seat to Teacher Holy Spirit, the real instructor of our community. And in the same way I as under-shepherd exercise my gifts to pastor the people, I as a teaching pastor do the same to teach them, to keep things on track, to proclaim and push us towards the truth.
How this works out is that we as a community- (Ideally) Meditate on and discuss the passage ahead of our gatherings/during the week. Solomon's Porch does that in a meeting on Tuesday nights I think. We do it on our forum. Either way, people know the basic content, the basic direction, have a chance to prayerfully meditate, to ask and answer questions, to soak in where God is taking us and what He is telling us. Come Sunday with some work already done in the text, and in their hearts (again, ideally... I recognize that the number of people who actually take advantage of this is far from 100%. It's something I want to continue to hold up as the ideal, though) we come together and continue our interaction over the text. And that discussion is generally led by a pastor/elder who has prayerfully considered all week (or longer) what God is saying to our community through the Scripture.
Consider too that a community like ours is made up of not just people who are new to faith and exploring, but many who have been following Christ for years. We have an abnormal amount of people among us with deep Bible knowledge- a lot of people who have spent time at schools like Capernwray and Multnomah and Golden Gate and Western... MA's, MDivs, a Dmin or two... not to mention a lot of people who, while not having an advanced degree in Bible or Theology, have a hunger and thirst for God's Word and actually read it, study it, etc.
So when we come together, when I ask questions that do more than just set up the discussion or get at feelings, but actually ask them to do some of the interpretive work, I do so with the confidence that the Holy Spirit is among us, moving, teaching, guiding and that many of us have spent much time in the Word. I ask those questions with confidence that our community, together, can answer them.
So, you can see how someone calling what we do a "pooling of ignorance" really gets me a little upset, can't you?
3. Not an abdication of declaration, but in fact, helping the whole community to declare to one another. That's where we'll pick up monday, okay? And then we'll move on to practicalities and do's/don'ts