Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lecture Church, Seminar Church, Tutorial Church

Just finished reading George Lings latest 'Encounters on the Edge' about Crossnet in Bristol. These are always worth reading, and there was one section which particularly leapt out at me. Here's an abridged version of what Lings says:

One source of education is the lecture, a presentation made by an expert in their field, disclosing prior assumes that giving information, but a motivated and able teacher, leads to positive change in students. There are obvious links to the sermon and the role of preaching. The results, in both contexts, seem to me to be extraordinarily variable. A few are deeply inspired and changed, some love the system while others merely endure it, and some even skip it. However in the church there is litle structured equivalent to the required reading that supports the lecture method, much less producing an essay demonstrating learning and engagement with the topic.

I am then not suprised that lecture church may breed preachers, but it is long doubted that by itself if produces disciples

In recent years, this has been supplemented by seminar church. At worst these are simply groups of passive participants who hear more lectures, perhaps further enlivened with visuals or story. At best this includes dialogue, group work, Q&A with the seminar leader etc. Alpha and many other process evangelism courses are positive examples of this.

Once again, weaknesses can include almost total lack of prior preparation by the 'students'. Information can trump transformation.

The pattern in Crossnet is most akin to tutorial church. In Oxbridge this system requires prior engagement by the student, followed by presentation of that learning. which is then dissected and evaluated by the tutor on a 1 to 1 basis. There is nowhere to hide. It is the most labour intensive and searching of the threee methods and (deemed to) produce higher quality results. It is not possible to do that with very large numbers. Itis a trajectory of high investment in the small because of its power to transform and to send out.

Thought: how many of us 'preachers' would like to get away from 'lecture church' models, but believe that either our congregations, our inherited practices, or our diaries won't let us?


  1. So far as we can tell, Jesus actively discipled only twelve people (plus some women I'd guess) - so why do we think we can do 10, 20, 30 times as many as he did?

  2. My favourite homegroup obliged background reading - yes it is quite an educated/academic model of discipleship, but it beats sitting through another monologue!

  3. Dave, I'm 100% agreed that there is little possible discipleship for those whose only church context is sitting in a religious building listening to a preacher and singing songs. We need real community (including conversations about faith and commitment to one another) and real action (DOING something as a team with other Christians that is useful for people other than ourselves). Homegroups are all very well, but if they don't do/enable anything except discussing stuff I'm not sure "discipleship" is what's going on.

    But I'd be loath to write off preaching as simply 'lectures' and hence irrelevant. At its best - and even when it doesn't quite come off there's value in the vulnerability - it's a prophetic, emotional bringing of the force of God's Word through weak human personality. Listening to preaching like this and having our hearts warmed or melted by it can in itself be transformative, as long as we're also in active communities of faith.