My wife is an educator so we’ve often discussed how obscene it can be that the Sunday sermon is aimed at one particular learning style (auditory/audial) and largely neglects the rest. And it takes up the majority of our Sunday service times. That’s why I wanted to stand up and cheer when I came across the post “Flipping the 40-Minute Sermon” by Karen E. Yates. I want to share what I felt like was the heart of her post in hopes that you will read the rest:
“Although the message from the pulpit can seem like the “main act,” going to church is about relating to one another in Christian community. Spread so thin from our jobs, college schedules, parenting responsibilities, meetings, volunteer opportunities, community activism, social media, and extracurricular activities galore, we in the Western church hardly have time for each other. Many Christians are lonely; many people are lonely. We come to church eager for friendship, to connect with God and with one another, because he made us for relationship.
Yet, the format of most Sunday church services rarely affords more interaction outside a handshake or “nice to meet you.” We sit shoulder to shoulder for 20 minutes of music, 5 minutes of announcements, 40 minutes of lecture, and 10 minutes of music to close. The greatest opportunity for community happens in the courtyard after service or on the slow trot to the car. Deepening relationships at church usually requires more time (which few of us have)–an additional Bible study, a prayer group, a mid-week community group to get “plugged in.” Meanwhile, the most interactive learning on Sunday morning consists of asking, “What did you think of the sermon?”…Would we allow that the church is not the church because of our pastor’s sermons, but because of the interaction of the congregation, the formation of community around the Word of God?…
Incorporating more opportunities to interact with one another during the Sunday service both addresses our need for community and our need to engage more deeply with the pastor’s instruction. How would it be if, instead of a Sunday morning 40-minute lecture, the pastor chopped his teaching into four shortened podcasts or You Tube videos for the congregation to listen to during the week. What if we actually asked questions about the topic or discussed the teaching with others? What if the pastor directed us with prompts, texts to read, and specific questions about what we learned mid-week? What if each “sermon” was collected into a downloadable eBook that we could share with friends, available for reference on our e-readers, and accessible for discussion during the Sunday morning church service?”
In a second post, I want to discuss more in depth one aspect Yates highlights, community participation, and one that she implicitly points towards, how we view the sermon’s purpose.
What do you think about her practical ideas? Do you agree/disagree that the sermon largely neglects most learning styles?