“How Preaching Builds the Christian Community”

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 186

I’m reading “Preaching and Preachers” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

In the second chapter he makes the claim that part of preaching’s effectiveness is its unique role as a shared learning experience. He attacks the misguided notion that individual learning can replace corporate learning.

Let’s examine this topic today.

He writes:

“Cannot all you want to be done equally well by reading – reading books and journals? Cannot it be done by television or radio…?” p42

Of course, today we need to add “online, YouTube et cetera”.

Undoubtedly there is much of great value in podcasts and other media. I myself listen regularly to sermons by Tim Keller and media put out by Worship Central, The Bible Project and others. However, can this not so much supplement as supplant the need for the local sermon?

Lloyd Jones goes on to say:

“I suggest that the result [of purely individual learning] is a disappointing one, and I think I can give the reasons for this. The first is that this is a wrong approach because it is too individualistic. The man sits on his own reading his book. That is too purely intellectual in its approach, it is a matter of intellectual interest. Another thing, which I find very difficult to put into words, but which to me is most important is that the man himself is too much in control. What I mean is that if you do not agree with the book you put it down, if you do not like what you are hearing on the television you switch it off. You are an isolated individual and you are in control of the situation. Or, to put it more positively, that whole approach lacks the vital element of the church.” p42

It is his second point which resonates most strongly with me. A podcast or YouTube video gets 20 or 30 seconds in which to engage me. If it does not, or if I do not like its content, I move onto the next piece of media.  By contrast, sat in my seat on Sunday, I am, to all intents and purposes, trapped! Hopefully trapped to a good end.

Here, I’m not dealing with the quality of the presentation, so much as the challenging nature of the content.

There is something uniquely powerful about learning from somebody who has a different personality, different background, different perspective and even a different belief to my own. I don’t have to accept it, but I do have to engage with it. And I do so within the community, rather than as an isolated individual.

Wrestling with biblical teaching and spiritual issues in community is a far healthier context in which to do it, then simply in my own head.

What I’d like to know today is, 

“What do you see as the particular value of corporate learning as opposed to individual learning?”

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John