Last Saturday morning I preached to a congregation of four — my dear wife, the two pastors of the church I was speaking at, and one member of the church staff, a technical wiz responsible for taping my sermon. The church was Yio Chu Kang Chapel. In light of the present virus epidemic, the church suspended her Sunday worship services. The church’s main platform for meeting is now her cell groups. Sermons will be recorded and sent to the cell groups who will then watch the sermon recording together. They then discuss what they had just heard and talk about how they can apply the sermon to their lives.

We had just come back from America the night before and I was jet lagged, but I so much wanted to do this. Although the move to cell groups as the main assembly of the church may have been a response to the present virus crisis, I thought this was a much, much better way of hearing and responding to the word. I know that a number of churches had been using their cell groups to discuss the sermon of the Sunday before but this was different. The group was listening to the sermon together and in real time. And they were processing it straight away.

In the usual Sunday services, after I preach some members of the congregation might come up to me to tell me it was a good sermon. That may be a boost for my ego but it tells me nothing of what that person actually heard and if he or she will apply what was heard. Yet most of the preaching that happens in our churches is done in this way. The speaker preaches from a pulpit and the congregation listens. The speaker has no idea what is being heard and has no way of tracking if the listeners will actually act on what has been heard. There is also no room for the listeners to raise questions if they need help with understanding or help in how to apply what they have learnt.

So I very much support this approach to hearing the Word. We remember the Bereans were commended for how they received Paul’s teaching eagerly and with discernment (Acts 17:11). What we often forget is that the early church was made up of house churches, about 30 people meeting in a home. It was a context suitable for discussing messages — what they meant, were they biblical, and how they should be applied. What Yio Chu Kang Chapel and some other churches are doing recaptures some of this dynamic. I foresee that this will result in a congregation that matures significantly in the Lord. I wonder if they will continue doing this after the virus pandemic has died down?