Updated: Jun 7, 2021
One of the main reasons the house church is so effective
The western concept of ministering the word is now the dominate method the world over. Whether the exegesis of the scriptures is topical, textual or expository, it invariably depends upon a sole orator delivering a monologue to a passive audience. Our western model is primarily about exchanging information and knowledge. It is generally an academic, classroom approach where the speaker indoctrinates a passive crowd. The goal is primarily about handing down knowledge.
Much of the preaching and teaching in the early church was very different than what developed since the demise of the early house church and the rise of churchanity. It wasn’t just a one-man show with a holy man delivering a lecture style homily to a group of passive spectators. It was far more interactive and participatory. This was how most teaching took place in Jewish culture as we see when young Jesus reasoned with the teachers in Jerusalem when he was twelve. (Matthew 2:46)
Studies concerning communication have shown that the lecture style of speaking is a highly ineffective way of communication and learning. Studies have shown that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see; 50% of what they hear and see; 70% of what we say ourselves and 90% of what we do ourselves. This is why the interactive sharing of the word was so effective. It’s the primary way early Christians learned to apply the word to their daily lives. Though traditional preaching and teaching has its place in the body, it is through the consistent practice of breaking the scriptural bread together that discipleship is greatly enhanced and accelerated. Practical application was far more important than accumulating information.
If there was a key word we could use to describe the nature of preaching and teaching in the early church it would be “dialogue.” It simply means; “to have a conversation or a discussion”. In the vernacular it would be called a “rap session.” It was a time when average believers participated in the process of exchanging ideas, asking questions, giving feedback, receiving clarification, and learning how to practically apply the truths to their daily lives. Though it was led by an elder or God gifted minister it was far from being a static, one man show. Sharing the word was not a “monologue” but a “dialogue”. This was the rule and not the exception. It was through this process that believers learned to “handle” the word of God. Through this intimate exposure to the word the scriptures came alive in their personal experience.
A creative learning experience took place which was stimulating, dynamic and rewarding. It also served as a powerful catalyst to accelerate Christian discipleship rather than quietly occupying pew space as a passive spectator. When Paul taught at Troas, we are told that he continued his speech until midnight. We also read that a young man name, “Eutychus” nodded off and fell out the window. Listen, I don’t care how anointed Paul was, if I had to sit and listen to someone droning on with an endless monologue until midnight, I’d throw myself out the window! What is so amazing is that after the commotion with Eutychus, we are told that Paul continued his discourse until morning! Paul was not giving an all-night monologue. He was interacting with the gathered believers in an extended, stimulating dialogue involving sharing, questions and group feedback from everyone involved.