Preaching and Lecturing: What Works?

Published on 19th March 2019

There is a distinction between preaching and lecturing. Both are methodologies for speech delivery. Both are intended to impart new or existing knowledge or to reiterate the already available knowledge. Both involve the application of the general principles of rhetoric. They are supposed to be arts, or specific forms of public speaking.

If you want to produce a liberated, free-thinking and rational outcome, you use lecturing. By its nature, lecturing enables the listener or hearer to probe more, to undertake to search for the truth. Lecturing has traditionally been utilized by highest learning institutions and universities for the same reason. It’s not only appropriate for higher academia and reason-formation; it is the best method for this cause. If people are not exposed to lecturing, they begin to accept the status quo and they cannot question things around them. The result is lack of experimentation, lethargy and lack of innovation. Industry and technologies are poster-children of lecturing.

As a mode of public oral free speech delivery, lectures are used to convey critical information, history, background, theories, and even equations. By this definition alone, lectures involve asking questions. Therefore, the lecturer should be well-versed in their subjects and should expect to be probed on the specific lesson delivered. This is a challenge and it has been internalized into lectures from time immemorial. Society is continuously being progressive because of lecturing, and without lecturing, knowledge starts to get stale, slag and eventually die.

Preaching, on the other hand is promulgation – a public declaration of a particular mindset, subject or message with a view to get the hearers believe everything said without question. The New Testament concept of preaching means to herald. There could be elements of teaching (lecturing) but heralding is different from teaching – teaching allows for inquisitorial evaluation of the subject matter.

Preaching is more like communicating the message as received from the superior. By that notion alone, asking or inquiring into the message becomes antithetical to the dictates of preaching. Although the final delivery of a preached message or sermon is based on the preacher’s homework to seek expositing the text (by performing both expository sermonization and exegesis – both which involve the study of the passage of Scripture and evaluation of its grammar, context, and the historical setting to be able to understand the author’s intent), the circumstantial effect of the delivery is meant to portray to the audience that what has been delivered is authentic, deliberate and truth.

The problem is that if the preacher is erroneous in their homiletics, then the listener will be mistaken as well. But the direct effect is that, because they don’t ask questions, listeners become mindless followers who accept anything thrown at them as Gospel truth. In other words, it’s easier to be deceived through preaching. This is true to political rallying where adherents and supporters simply take what they hear and regurgitate them as unimpeachable truisms. Religion and politics thus are the best forums to indoctrinate and “brainwash” people into blind followers. The beneficiary is the leader or the messenger who can easily achieve what they want: Conviction, influence, power, money, solidarity or mutiny.

The benefit of preaching is only in the fact that the truth is preached. Then God can receive the glory and achieve His purposes on earth. Or the politician with the right policies can be voted into power. Or the leader with the right goods can get the people served. But anyone can abuse preaching and achieve their selfish ends. That is why listening to preaching Sunday-in-Sunday-out without questioning, can be a trap for many people. Always ask a question, is the preacher well-vest in the subject matter? What did he do to earn the privilege? Has he the right attitude?

Did he cross-check to authenticate the message? Does he have the right motives for preaching? Is he or she only after making me do or behave in a certain way because it makes them achieve their selfish ends? If you doubt the preaching, search it yourself (Acts 17:11) and God will show you the truth (Psalms 119:18). If it’s a politician, always ask them questions: How, What, When, Why? Don’t be a mindless, clueless, blind listener or follower, ask questions.

By Charles Mwewa

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