Skip to main content

What makes Teaching or Preaching Useful?



About ten or so years ago, I was attending a conference and heard a speaker say something that not only stuck with me all these years, but forever changed my ministry – or at least the way I preach and teach.

Before I tell you what he said, a bit of background may help: the speaker was summarizing the conference’s presentations and leading us in what he called a “LESS AND MORE” exercise.

It’s a simple exercise, and one you may know: you take out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, and write the word “LESS” at the top of the left hand column. Then you write the word “MORE” at the top of the other column. Then you write down, based on what you have heard and experienced, any actions or behaviors that you would do less of going forward, as well as any actions or behaviors you will do more of from that point on.


It was sometime during his introduction to this exercise that he said the thing that stuck with me:

Learning that does not change behavior is not useful learning.”


Whoa.

At first my mind rebelled against the thought: “what, there’s no value in knowledge for the sake of knowledge? There aren’t things we learn in order to be better informed, better educated?”

But think about it: why? Why do you want more knowledge, why do you want to be better informed? Why do you want to be better educated? Isn’t the point of acquiring more knowledge, becoming better informed, or becoming better educated, to help ourselves see differently, feel differently, and understand the world differently? And if we do see, feel, and understand the world differently, doesn’t that mean we will behave differently?

That has a huge implication for preaching or teaching: preaching that does not change behavior is not useful preaching. Teaching that does not change behavior is not useful teaching. 

And think about the implication on a daily and weekly basis, when you are reading your Bible, when you are receiving some insight about yourself, and when you are in church worshiping or attending continuing Christian education classes.  

Imagine the difference it would make if, when reading, praying, and coming to church, more of us were asking ourselves, “so what? 

What difference does this make? 

What behaviors am I being called to do more of, and less of?”

Because learning that does not change behavior is not useful learning. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…

Irresponsible to be Silent

A sermon preached June 19, 2016 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal, Falls Church, Virginia
(“Dear Lord: Carry your word into the most protected parts of our hearts.”)
Today I don’t have a traditional sermon. I certainly don’t have a sermon about Father’s Day, but now that I’ve mentioned it, happy Father’s Day. Today, instead of a traditional sermon, I feel led to share some things that have been on my heart this past week.
I’ve been your Rector here since August of 2012. Those of you who have been here a long time know that my preaching style is almost always “expository,” a fancy word that simply means you take a passage of scripture, and having studied it during the week, you show – or expose – its meaning and relevance as best you can, and then you sit down, trusting Holy Spirit will be hard at work simultaneously translating for each of you what you need to hear on any given Sunday.
One of the implications of this style of preaching is I tend not to preach “to…