Friday, April 15, 2011

One of many reasons we should prioritise hearing the word, not studying and reading

'...preaching in its essence is an authorized human being speaking the words of God to listening human beings; and every culture understands that.

An interactive Bible study is not culturally-neutral. To sit around drinking coffee with a book open, reading and talking about that book in a way that forces me to keep looking at that book and finding my place and showing a high level of mental agility, functional literacy, spoken coherence and fluency, that is something that only some of the human race are comfortable doing. Not everyone feels comfortable when the bright spark in the corner pipes up, "Ah, yes, but I was wondering about the significance of the word "However" in verse 3b. What do you think about that?" Some of us love that kind of seminar interaction, but many do not. For those who can do it, it may way be profitable; but many people can't, and just feel daunted or excluded by the exercise.

In some churches we have slipped into assuming that personal Bible reading and one-to-one Bible studies and Bible study groups are the normative way for Christian people to hear the Word of God. This, we say, is what a healthy Christian life looks like. But in redefining the Christian life like that we may unwittingly have alienated the illiterate, the functionally illiterate, the less-educated, those less confident in studying a text. I wonder if, quite unintentionally, we may have contributed to making some of our churches more monocultural than they might otherwise be. Paradoxically it is not that preaching is culturally outmoded, but rather that the study of written Biblical texts is culturally narrow.'

(HT Ed Shaw, Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching, p.28)

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