Sunday evenings also gave opportunity for a Talkback experiment. The leaflet promised: 'The minister will be under fire from the congregation following the evening service'. The idea was that in the service I would focus on a topic and after the benediction the congregation would talk back with comments and questions.
The first topic was DEATH. Beginning with a recent opinion poll that 48% of Brits (especially men) said that we 'go out like a light' at death I ranged over various other options: Diluted Christian (God's going to make it OK, isn't he?); Spiritualist (some element of us will survive including separation of body and spirit); and the full Christian view with resurrection of the body at its heart.
The experiment continued for a few months with others 'under fire'. Topics included: CARING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE February -with Geoff Evans who was the County Youth Training Officer (and a Baptist friend); March - WHAT USE ARE MISSIONARIES IN THE MODERN WORLD? with missionary Jean McCormick; April - THE EMPTY TOMB - THE BIGGEST CON?; May - THE TAKING OF LIFE - with Prof. Edward Popham of Salford University.
Some people were willing to participate with some genuine feedback. But others seemed disengaged. Maybe presentations were sometimes too abstract or, perhaps, too obvious. I recall one of my outspoken members challenging me on THE BIGGEST CON - 'Why tell us things we agree with anyway?!' (Much later in my Cambridge ministry I found far more seekers who didn't agree).
However, the whole exercise raised questions about preaching itself. How much was this proclaiming the gospel? And could such dynamics work with a much larger group anyway?
Shouldn't my preaching always be looking to make connections and receive feedback through the conversations and living of the congregation? This desire to collaborate continued to grow throughout the later years of my ministry with some further experimentation (which I think was more effective). But, anyway, we tried!.