Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doug Pagitt (3)

Having enthusiastically set out some reasons for "Progressional Implicatory Dialog," Doug then moved us into our third session to put it into practice. The 70 of us present were going to model what happens in his own church (every week for the past 10 years). Our dialog would prepare the "sermon" for the whole church. In Doug's church this happens on Tuesday night prior to the following Sunday.

Church leaders had given him two passages of Scripture: Acts 2:42-47 and 1 Pet. 2:4-10. I guess they may have expected him to choose one or the other!

What happened was extraordinary! He not only took both passages but insisted that we engage with Acts chapters 1-3 and the whole letter of 1 Peter. He read 2 Tim 3:16 describing how Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, and said: "We must let the Bible speak for itself." He emphasized the responsibility of being hospitable so that what others say is received for the benefit of all.

The room was divided in halves. Sitting at tables of 5-7, we were told to read out loud around our tables (all tables reading at the same time) the whole of these chapters - some 8 in all. Each person read as much as was comfortable, and then someone else followed on.

Having read right through these chapters, Doug then engaged us with those issues that emerged as important. First, with Acts 1-3 many people spoke about aspects that struck them - from describing it as Luke's second book, with explanation about the significance of Pentecost, to personal responses about, for example, how the many different languages in Acts 2 resonated with many voices reading out loud. Many large/smaller points were made. Second, with 1 Peter 1-5, many people shared what was important for them.

All the time, Doug was moving between the two sides of the room and connecting these two passages - particularly in the person of Peter (so prominent in both) and in the contrast between the birth of the church and 1 Peter's context of suffering.

I didn't count how many people spoke. Of course, everyone spoke around the tables. But I estimated between one fifth and one fourth had interacted out loud, and all of us were heavily involved. Over 2 hours just sped by.

I was not alone in wondering just how this would translate into the following morning's sermon. At the end of the session Doug asked for 5 volunteers who would be willing to share in the preaching next day. At the conclusion he met with them. However, he said it would be open to ANYONE to share in the preaching the next day!

I said it was extraordinary. Why?
1) Such huge chunks of Scripture were involved. Never had I been in a situation where 8 chapters were being considered at once.
2) Participants were so willingly involved. Fortunately, the church has already undertaken bible work like this so some were prepared. But the quality of sharing - its seriousness and openness was startling.
3) The promise that the whole preaching event the next day would be open to anyone? Just how could this work?

I have a busy teaching day today, but I'll post on the Sunday service shortly!


Michael Kooy said...

Michael, I am very glad you are doing this blog. I really appreciate the summaries - it's like reliving the experience. Your reflection points resonate with me, too. I am eager to read on!

wsuriano said...

This sounds like it could be dangerous, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Are pastors really equipped to synthesize a sermon out of this sort of process, week in and week out? Can this process lead to conflict? How do you manage this process? Does it develop a sermon by consensus? Is the pastor/preacher following the Holy Spirit in his preaching or the congregants who participate in the sermon prep? How do you develop the interest of a congregation to become this involved in sermon prep? So many questions. I'm anxious to see how it turned out. Doug sounds like he's remarkably gifted, but can those who are not pull this off? What a ride this must have been Michael!