After many years in the pulpit, Steve Simms gave up preaching. He turned the floor over to his congregation. And he’s never looked back.
Every Sunday at Berry Street Worship Center in Nashville, Tennessee, the faithful gather to hear and share personally what God is doing in their lives. It’s unscripted, and often surprising. Simms says, “Every Sunday we say we’ve never seen anything like that.” And that’s the way he–and his congregation–like it.
The people of Berry Street follow the advice in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation.”
Simms said, “I’ve seen people grow spiritually far more rapidly in this style than when I was preaching.”
In fact, back in his preaching days, Simms polled his congregants with general recall questions about his sermon content. “Not one person could answer the questions,” he said.
And, the old one-way communication model is a primary reason today’s people are staying away from church, according to research.
In today’s Holy Soup podcast with Steve Simms, he explains how he conducts his participatory Sunday services. And he offers troubleshooting tips for some common worries about this style of message-bringing, including how to handle long-winded individuals, theological impurity, and shy members. Listen to the conversation here:
Simms has discovered what others, in other fields, are finding: the monolog lecture method has diminishing returns. Stanford professor and Nobel laureate Carl Wieman says the college lecture is the educational equivalent of bloodletting. He’s seen leaps in student learning through more participatory teaching methods.
For preachers who claim they’re driven by some biblical “mandate” to deliver a 30-minute lecture every Sunday, Steve Simms has some advice: “That biblical mandate goes far beyond the pastor. That mandate to preach the gospel was to all the disciples.” And he sees the people of Berry Street, after exercising their faith on Sunday, freely sharing the Good News in their everyday lives in the real ministry field.
Simms shares his story in his new book, Beyond Church: An Invitation to Experience the Lost Word of the Bible.