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Paul Fromont

Cheers Jonny. Looks interesting and I look forward to reading it. PAX

Andrew Dowsett

thanks, Jonny - this is an excellent thought-provoker...what a shame the editor wasn't brave enough to include it in the book...


Thanks for your thoughts on this, Jonny. I’ve caught hints of your opinion on preaching through other posts on your blog, so it was good to get a better explanation from you on the subject. (A grenade in the fruit bowl is a healthy thing once in a while. Shows what the fruit is actually made of.) Honestly, I’m quite attracted to the idea of throwing out the sermon altogether, replacing it with creative, participatory, multi-sensory, transformational, captivating ways to communicate God’s truth. However, I’m a bit hesitant to do that primarily because of the emphasis that God Himself seems to put on preaching in scripture! Now, I say this being fully prepared to admit that my view on what God says about preaching has been more informed by the enlightenment (er, whatever else it is that has shaped how I read scripture.)

I guess what I (and I’m sure many other “good little evangelical” sceptics out there) would be interested in is your reason to dismiss the biblical support for preaching, or rather your different interpretation of those scriptures that speak of preaching. I realize that (according to the concordance on my handy little PDA Bible software), the word “preach” (or “preaching” or “preached”) appears in the New Testament some 113 times. (Interestingly, the word “sermon” doesn’t show up at all. Hmmm . . . where’d that word come from?) And of course, I wouldn’t expect you to give an explanation covering all 113 uses of the word “preach.” Would you say that a traditional understanding of the term “preach” and “teach” is much too narrow? Do you think we can come to a substantially clear definition of “preaching and teaching” from the Sacred Texts?

I recognize that nowhere in the Bible does God specifically ordain the “30-45 minute, 2-4 point (though 3 is most “spiritual”), three-pronged format (opening/body/conclusion)” sermon that is typically used. But why a call to throw out preaching completely? Do you think it would be acceptable to include a decentralized learning process in the church without throwing out the sermon altogether? Can we include the majority of the creative, non-traditional elements you mention in your essay, but use those things to shape the sermon more effectively?

If it would be easiest to recommend any books or articles on this issue, that would be cool too. I really am curious about your take on the biblical treatment of the role of preaching in the church though.

Obviously much more to say, but I believe I've completely breached any blog etiquette for comment length. My apology it that's true!


Thanks for making this piece available, I'm sitting down to prep a talk for Sunday morning so it was timely to give me some fresh ideas! I think the best thing about not having a sermon is that this forces people to interact with the bible text, contribute, question and grapple with the perceptions of others so that as a community of faith we can get to a shared understanding. Please God lets do that!

Daniel Walters

Ironic timing, since the same day you posted this, the BBC report a different form of 21st century sermon:


Benjamin Sternke

Thanks for making this article available. It was very refreshing to read. I am preparing to speak this weekend and it helped to spark some ideas.


rather than replace the sermon, these ideas can provoke thought about how you are preaching, so if you remove the sermon from the service it may only be for 2 months, then when you return to including it, it is impossible for it not to have changed in some way, plus you have started to include more people in the process, changing the format from a congregation buying a speech to a discussion/shared experience.

inspirational stuff jonny, looking forward to trying out the nuggets idea

alan hirsch

Hot! We have a great need to seriously question the value of doing the thinking that people themselves ought to be doing. Talking of McLuhan, another thing he taught us that our tools/technologies are actually addictive (he calls it a form of narccisism) and that they have reciprocal effects on us (we invent our tools and our tools reinvent us.) When we look at the Western ecclesial project I really wonder how addicted we are to outsourcing the search and how this has affected us.

I was once told that the best way to learn chess is to start without your queen, because then you really have to learn what the other chess pieces can do. Perhaps its time to put the sermon to bed so that we can learn about the other elements in the mix.



I printed it out, underlined it and distributed copies to friends. Well done. The ideas are refreshing and helpful as well as a reminder that I am not crazy when we try interactive ways of allowing all of us to be participants and ministers together - ultimately its about being the Church we were called to be, rather than just coming and spectating the performance at the Christian Club which we are members.

Good stuff. I'm putting a link from my blog to yours...

Jeff Kogler

Thanks, Jonny. I shall have a more detailed read of your article shortly. I have to say that I am less concerned about cliched preaching than about the cliche and jargon filled music for worship that I hear weekly. I find myself less and less able to identify with it in worship.

bj woodworth

jonny at the risk of repeating the thanks - thanks once more. I posted this on my blog as well. How much work or reading you have done in the Seven Intelgence theories or Dales Cone of Learning or reading of an educator named Parker Palmer. It sounds as though you are trying to engender a new pedagogy and an alternative epistomolgy- all of which are supported in these studies in educaiton. The church has bought hook line and sinker into a one dimensional form of knowing, education and what it thinks is transformation. I have some friends who do outdoor leadership education here in the states and the transformation that can be had while backpacking for 6 weeks in Wymoning is life altering; similarly there is a movement in the university to embrace service learning as opposed to just didactic teaching in the classroom. Anyway I concur that we need to rethink, reimagine and recreate the art of preaching. Thanks for stirring up good conversation over here in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


preach it brother!! I've experienced in the past 2 1/2 years at "red" texturized worship that not having a formal sermon liberates God to move further, deeper and more sharply into the lives of the worshipers. Scary thought that pastors have the capacity to limit the impact and dull the worship! OK, obviously God dosn't need liberating. Praise God! He will not be bound! We are the ones that that are liberated and jolted into accountability and identify with HIS message when we become chefs of the spiritual meal instead of babes with bibs. The wonderful benefit is that the meal is so much more satisfying, nourishing and energizing.

The most amazing blessing from texturized worship is the intensely personal and dramatically varied message that God imparts in different worshipers during the same worship experience. That's God!

Fr. S

Maybe it was time that we deconstructed the sermon, used that time more effectively, more interactively; got away from the pedagogical method of teaching and stimulated creativity.

As a Parish priest, I was challenged and inspired by the article, maybe it needs wider dissemination.

There is more to podcasting than sticking your sermons on iTunes and the Church has always sought to use the bleeding edge of technology (the Printing Press, the Radio, the Internet) in proclamation of the Gospel, maybe we need new expressions using these new media...

ben bell

Lovin your work jonny.
have emailed the link to all the preachers and service leaders here and have invited them to come and discuss it in the pub next week.
cheers mate.

Phil Harper

Hi Jonny,

I commend the fact that you are challenging us to think creatively and 'thinking outside the box' (read 1 Cor 9 for Paul's take on 'thinking outside the box'). They church needs to be 'always reforming'. We must, for the sake of the Gospel, always go back to basics.

However, i am a little disturbed by your comments and approach in your article. I too think that we need to get rid of some of the clutter that tends to fill up church. However, we have some central defining truths that define who we are. We are not at liberty to start with a completely blank page. We have truths that mould us and constrain us.

Surely we should not start with a blank page, but start with basic gospel truths (Principles if you like). Surely we should think theologlically first and foremost? At several points you take examples and truths from the current culture that are not 'gospel priniples' and use these as your starting point.

The message of the Gospel comes to us as a Word (the Word) from God. The Gospel is communicated in words. We must work within that framework. We cannot (must not) throw words out the window.

Surely when we don't like something we should reflect on it theologically rather than culturally?



Hey dudes, why is Pomo (aka The Big Lie aka The Emperor ain't got no Whistle)so down on words in sentences? I mean, it has to use them to write articles and blog a bout them to down them doesn't it? Seems a bit cheeky, a bit self-contradictoire a mon avis. And if sentences is basic, normative and thus cool, why not we use dem sentences 'bout de Lord Jesus then?
Come on, get a life!


Bibliographical suggestion for those looking for a justification for preaching: Klaus Runia, The Sermon Under Attack, Paternoster. These are his Moore College lectures of 1980. The first chapter (criticisms of preaching as a communication genre) show that what some 'emergents' are saying is as old as the hills. (Nothing new under the sun). Enjoy!

steve collins

the answer to brandon, above, is that until very recently there were few or no media and literacy was very limited. so preaching - ie one person addressing a crowd gathered to hear what they had to say - was the best way to communicate ideas for all but a literate elite. this was how teachers taught, how politicians addressed the public [the hustings], how trades unionists and activists raised support for strikes or actions. in the hellenistic world of the new testament rhetoric [the art of public address and persuasion] was a major art form with professional practitioners [hence st. paul apologising that he 'doesn't speak well'].

all this applied up to less than 50 years ago, so it's no surprise that the bible doesn't address it or that the church is locked into preaching mode and struggles to escape.

steve collins

having read what i've written i wonder if the emphasis on preaching in the NT isn't itself an example of contextualising into the current mass medium rather than an injunction for all times and places. in the OT there's performative or poetic stuff rather than exegesis of a text [said texts not generally having been written yet!]


For a timely wake-up call on the folly of Postmodernism so-called, why not read ‘The Death of Truth’ Dennis McCallum, Bethany House Publishers 1996.


Coming very late to this blog post, but you're not the only one to be saying such things. A fuller treatment - including some ideas for change - are published by Grove Books in a little pamphlet called "Preaching as Dialogue". See http://www.grovebooks.co.uk/acatalog/Grove_Books_Online_Pastoral_5.html#aP68 for more details. That author tries to separate preaching from sermons, saying we need to strip away our received wisdom on monologue sermons, and get back to a much wider range of ways of preaching.


This is a great thought-provoker and summary. Thanks for sharing this!


Hi, I'm reading your Grove Booklet, Transforming Preaching, which develops this further. In the light of several years of training and following up pioneers, I'm interested to know if and/or how your thinking has been further shaped. Cheers.

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