Today, most people think of sermons as extended religious monologues meant to encourage, inspire, and occasionally challenge us. The traditional way of doing “Sunday worship” leaves us with this impression. Luke’s presentation of the beginning and growth of the early church can also leave us with this impression because of the presence of extended monologues throughout Acts (see Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 7:2-53; 10:34-48; 13:16-42; 17:22-34).
The Greek word dialegomai occurs thirteen times in the Greek New Testament. According to the Greek Lexicon by Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, the Greek word dialegomai means “to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue” and “to instruct about something” (BDAG, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, 2000, 232). Eckhard Schnabel notes that dialegomai describes either a discussion of a topic or a series of subjects by one person (sermon, lecture) or a conversation about a topic or topics between two or more persons (dialogue, discussion) [Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts, Expanded Digital Edition., Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2012]. Thus, we get our English word “dialogue” from dialegomai.
In Acts, Paul is regularly the subject of dialegomai. When Paul goes to the Jewish synagogue at Thessalonica, Luke records that “he reasoned (dialegomai) with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). When Paul was in Athens, “he reasoned (dialegomai) in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). Again at Corinth, Paul “reasoned (dialegomai) in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). At Ephesus, Paul goes to the synagogue and “reasoned” (dialegomai) with the Jews (Acts 18:19; 19:8). The same term also applies to Paul’s teaching in other settings (Acts 19:9; 24:25), including church settings (20:7–9).
The extended monologue is a biblical way of presenting the word of God. However, it is not the only way (even in assembly settings). Paul not only taught by monologue, but he also dialogued with his hearers in several different settings.
The current Sunday morning practice of the Columbine congregation is in harmony with both aspects of the meaning of dialegomai. First, we meet together and have an extended lesson from the Bible, and then we meet together to discuss (dialogue) the application of that lesson for us. This way of doing things provides the opportunity to be transformed by God’s powerful and dynamic word.