Is preaching a poor teaching tool?

We are running a theology course at the moment that uses pre-recorded lectures to deliver the material and then interact with students via social media and a once a month get together for Q&A. This article encourages me that we are on the right track. It argues that live lectures are a very poor teaching tool for all sorts of reason. For example, if you miss something or do not understand something you can’t pause to think or ask questions. The solution they propose is to record the lectures and use social media.

That’s all well and groovy and I agree, but what about the Sunday preach? Should we ditch the preach along with the live lecture? Well, backing up I think there are advantages to being physically present when someone is speaking live. There is a spiritual dynamic that takes place because God’s presence is in us and with us when we meet together. Words are powerful tools for carrying truth and connecting people, but so is presence. Not sure I can quite put my finger on how that works out in practice but it does lay down the principle that physical presence matters. I’ll make a stab at a few points:

When people are together in the same place at the same time there is a shared experience that shapes the group. This is still true if we all watched a TV program at different times on catch up, but it’s less powerful. We share not just the words and pictures but the room, the welcome, the pre and post chat, the atmosphere etc.  We can talk immediately about what we have just seen. We can pray for one another and invite God’s presence. A preach style talk can also call for a corporate or individual response there and then. More is communicated by a speaker than can be picked up by a camera. Also, I find going to a conference and hearing a speaker is more memorable than watching a video. Part of that is because of the extra bandwidth you are taking in but it’s also because it’s more of an event that stands out. There is so much information available to us now that I think our brains put a higher priority on these rarer personal importations. The effectiveness of that, of course, lessens the more you attend lectures and conferences.

 

For delivering lots of information I think lectures are best recorded. For imparting spiritual truth to a community of people you still can’t beat live face to face physical presence. It does mean, however, that you need to work to the strengths of the setting. You will be able to communicate less information, but should be able to impart it more deeply.  You can always record the preach and post it online so  people can replay later if they want.

 

It’s obvious really. Being at a football match is different to watching it at home. There are strengths and weaknesses to both. It might be cold on the terrace in winter and you may be not be able to see as clearly, but boy is the atmosphere more intense and the moment more significant if you are actually there.

 

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