The Q&A below is intended to provide some answers and stir up more insight regarding some burning questions in the current debates on Sunday gatherings, missional communities, and diaological preaching. This Q&A is adapted from an email exchange I had with Mike Edwards, who kindly lent me his permission to do so.
Dialogical vs. Monological Preaching
Mike: Where are the theological/biblical roots for monological preaching?
Jonathan: The Bible does not sanction one method of delivering God’s word over others. In fact, it advocates a variety of ways, monologue being just one of them. See the monological examples of Peter and Paul in Acts 2, 4, 17, and so on. Paul’s letters, which were read aloud were monologues, homiletical deliveries. Throughout the epistles we are told to preach, teach, correct, rebuke which strongly connote a direct address, not so much a conversation. However, I am open to and use dialogical approaches in different settings. Paul used dialogue in the synagogues, with individuals (Lydia), and even on Mars Hill.
The key here, I think, is to minister the Word diversely in ways appropriate to context and audience. Monologue has served the Western church well for some time in a post-Enlightenment, post-Gutenberg age. Yet, with the shift of the center of Globally Xty away from the West to the South and the East, and increase in postmodern values of conversation, changes in technology to visual, aural, and vibration experiences, dialogical increasingly makes cultural sense.
Missional Communities vs. Sunday Gatherings
Mike: If you start your church on missional communities, why have a larger gathering? What does that look like for your church?
Jonathan: Similar to my statement above, the Bible doesn’t sanction any one way. We need to have a dynamic ecclesiology that allows for contextualization; there are many biblically faithful ecclesiologies. That is the brilliance of the gospel and the incarnation; its translatability into community and culture. We started City Groups (Missional communities) before we started the weekend gathering/service. That was good for our context and good for our ecclesiology, gospel-centered, community-focused, and missional.
I think a launch/service model can cultivate good community and mission, but is often more difficult to do so. In suburbs it is difficult to even get a gathering to shepherd into CGs/MCs, so the launch model offers a gathering point. Pentecost was a dramatic launch model that spun out house churches. I am glad we did CGs first and service second. It has made a HUGE difference. Gathering doesn’t need to be weekly, but it should happen regularly to maintain the marks of the church and instructions in Heb 3 & 10 of not forsaking the assembling together. Also, somehow these groups would need elder oversight and auhoritative teadching and leadership for church discipline.