The centerpiece of the Sunday morning church service–the sermon–is fading.

The problem is not the message. The gospel is as potent as ever. It’s the delivery methodology that’s losing its effectiveness.

The sermon-monologue form of communication–regardless of the aptitude of the communicator–is producing diminishing results for retention and transformation. And this one-way communication model is one of the chief reasons more people are avoiding regular church attendance. As we reported in our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, many people say they’re no longer interested in passively listening to a religious lecture without the ability to interact, participate or ask questions.

The lecture method has also come under increasing scrutiny in the academic world. For example, researchers from Texas A&M University recently released a report entitled “The Lecture Method is D-E-A-D.” These educators write, “The lecture method is no longer beneficial, and in order to teach students in higher education, educators must comprehend why this approach to teaching is not the most effective pedagogy available to instructors.”

Academia’s epiphany places more pressure on churches that cling to lecture methodology in their teaching and preaching. Today’s college graduates expect more than a talking head.

Pastor and author Rick Bundschuh says, “We’re stuck in using the most archaic and unreliable ways to communicate the best message that’s ever been out there.” He said preachers and teachers tend to replicate how they were taught. Maybe that old methodology worked for them, but it’s not working well for today’s people.

In his book Moving Messages, Bundschuh challenges teachers and preachers to take another look at how Jesus taught, which he argues bears little resemblance to today’s 20- to 40-minute sermon routines. He encourages the use of multiple methods to more effectively engage today’s congregations.

In today’s Holy Soup Podcast, Bundschuh describes how he uses various approaches in his preaching, such as:

  • Peer-to-peer interaction, using good Jesus-style questions to induce times of conversation interspersed during the message time. These “pair shares” work with any size group.
  • Real-time polling, utilizing easy-to-use technology that allows members to participate in the message through their smartphones. (He uses to link his congregation.)
  • Creative take-home object lessons that extend his messages throughout the week.

Bundschuh has gradually introduced such participatory elements with a sense of humility and adventure. “I ask people to humor me when trying new things,” he says. They go along with him, get caught up in the message, and incorporate their learnings into their lives. The pew sitters have become fully engaged participants.

What’s the goal here? To make disciples–or make a speech?

Hear my conversation with pastor Rick Bundschuh here on the Holy Soup Podcast: