The Monologue

Earlier this year at the Acts 29 Bootcamp in Chicago Mark Dever spoke on Evangelism and Church Planting, and something he said about preaching has stuck with me more than anything else I heard at that gathering. It is particularly provocative in light of the current conversation that is taking place among pastors about the nature and place of preaching in the church. Some have become vocal in their objection to preaching as a “monologue.” Some argue that a unilateral proclamation of truth as the regular form of preaching in the church is a bad thing in that it prohibits dialog, turns people into passive spectators, and contributes to the sit-there-and-do-nothing ethos of many of our evangelical churches. But at the Acts 29 Bootcamp Mark Dever argued that gospel-centered preaching as “monologue” is not only biblical, but is practical in that both the content and even the form itself point to the grace of God as our only hope of redemption.

In salvation God acts. He accomplishes our redemption while we receive it by faith. Because salvation is of the Lord, to "sit there and do nothing" is the proper posture of the sinner. Of course that is an overstatement, and I know this is not the point of those arguing against the monologue, but the point is relevant. God has acted on our behalf, he sends his word out into the world announcing this work, and we respond to this word in faith/repentance. When God converts a man he does so through the preaching/proclamation of the word, (Rom 10). Dialog, while good, is not required. When God sanctifies his people, and brings revival to the church and world, he uses Scripture (Jn. 17:17. 2 Thess. 2:13; ). "Back and forth" is often used, but is not necessary. The explicit testimony of Scripture, and the implicit example of the preaching in both the Old and New Testatments all lift up the sermon as monologue as a good thing. In fact, a normative thing. God speaks, and his people are changed. God's word goes out, and does not return void.

I believe back and forth is an important and necessary aspect to Christian ministry. We should seek opportunities to cultivate such dialog in order to reason with people about the gospel, counsel, etc. But to claim that dialog is necessary for preaching to be effective is not just a stretch, it mocks both the model of the apostolic church and the means of God. Yes, let’s create opportunities for dialogical ministry/teaching, but let’s not abandon the proclamation of Scripture “as monolog” as if it were merely an antiquated and ineffective approach to teaching. I am convinced with Mark that such preaching makes much of the gospel in content and form.