Consider these scriptures:

"And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ." Ephesians 5:18-21

"Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

"What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification." 1 Corinthians 14:26

"For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged." 1 Corinthians 14:31

Why is it that only one person teaches during the meeting of the saints (the church meeting)? Isn't this contrary to what scripture is teaching? If it is not contrary to scripture, is there any evidence in the New Testament for having a "single teacher" in the church meeting?

I can't seem to find any evidence for this church practice in Scripture, so I'm wondering if this is a church tradition that is perhaps against the teachings of Scripture.

What I understand from the above passages (even read in context), is that everyone in the church has a responsibility to exercise the gifts that have been imparted to them by the Holy Spirit. If we are not participating in the active leadership of this meeting (by teaching, prophesying, and singing, for example), then we aren't we being passive and not fulfilling the call of the church?

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    In many churches, such as those in the Brethren movement, more than one person does teach!
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 3:45
  • closely related: When did the one-way monologue sermon first become a normal feature of church assemblies?: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/11586/…
    – Mike
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 6:48
  • my answer will be downvoted quickly but it is correct
    – user4060
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 7:44
  • I'm not sure your why question will get a satisfactory answer. For instance, are you satisfied with "denominational tradition"?
    – Steve
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 12:13
  • 1
    @Bye, having multiple teachers doesn't have to imply more than one person speaking at once or untrained or unskilled people speaking.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 13:46

4 Answers 4


I attended meetings of the Vineyard for a period of a year and the members there exercised the gifts of the Spirit, with multiple people, one at a time, giving revelation and prophesying, tongues and interpretations. Then they bunched together and prayed for healings for the afflicted.

I attended a Brethren-inspired gathering for about 8 years. There, they encouraged multiple brothers to get up and speak on the same Sunday morning. The one with little experience spoke for 10 minutes; those with more ability, 15-20 minutes; those with gift, 30 minutes. (So when I say that I have preached for 8 years, people think I'm a pastor!) In this same church, the singing was not led by a choir or worship leader, but members of the body spoke out a hymn number between individual bouts of verbal worship, and we sang that.

Because these settings are outside of any traditional settings I've witnessed in mainline denominations, I can only conclude that historical tradition has dictated the idea of a single speaker. Also, it makes sense for the pastor to do all the speaking because he is paid to do so and (generally) has the ability to communicate the things of God well. In a regular church service where many are present, it certainly makes for a more controlled environment when the message isn't interrupted with questions or comments (I've attended one of those, too!)

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    If church services are supposed to have multiple participants, and that's impractical in a large church setting, perhaps our churches are too big.
    – Matt White
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 20:10
  • @MattWhite Many churches know they are "too big" and compensate by having numerous home fellowships and themed Bible studies throughout the week for more personal contact.
    – Steve
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 0:11

I believe what you cited is the intended example and would love to experience some of the things mentioned by @Steve. However, there are some examples of a single speaker, including just about every time Jesus spoke publicly after a certain point:

And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:34b)

The primary example of a single long monologue seems to be Acts 20:7-12, where Paul speaks all night long (and possibly all day and then all night long).

Fundamentalist Humor: Of course when I'm talking to someone who may be preaching soon, I tell them that they're quite welcome to talk until midnight just as soon as they demonstrate that like Paul they can raise someone from the dead.

In my opinion the single person monologue was primarily used for special occasions when an important speaker was in town for a limited time.

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    As far as I can tell, everytime one person spoke; Jesus, Paul etc. It was always to the "masses" (or a mix of believer and non-believers). When there were only believers, I cannot find an instance where only one person spoke at a meeting. Is this consistant with your findings? Commented May 13, 2014 at 19:54
  • @David Barratt The Acts 20 case I cited is a case where Paul is on a trip back from a mission and in a hurry to get back to Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:16). He's returning to a city where he's been before and seems to be primarily strengthening the gathered believers. Of course I believe they were normally gathering in house churches but had all gathered to hear Paul. Commented May 15, 2014 at 13:17
  • When did Paul raise someone from the dead? Commented May 17, 2014 at 20:40
  • @GregoryMagarshak, biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2020%3A7-12 Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 2:57
  • So if the example is that Jesus spoke as a single speaker (and Paul) but all followers are told to speak in gatherings, this means that preachers think they're Christ? /humor Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 18:45

essentially lots of people talking == church split

There is no real Biblical basis for only one person teaching during a church service. Such techniques were developed in response to problems that existed when a plurality of people are perceived as leading the church. (Especially if they are old people or snobby in such a way it attracts the weak) Its the Ephesians and Corinth problem that Timothy and Paul historically faced. If you are unfamiliar with this problem I will provide a longer explanation.

  • I think it's more likely that prevalence of only having one teacher during a church meeting arose because the early church's plurality of elders was changed to a single leader hierarchical model.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 13:48
  • I would love to hear a longer explanation. thanks! Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:58

The Church as with any other entity has gone through the process of evolution.

In its infancy the church was established by word of mouth, by that I mean that in the absence of any written directives, churches were formed on the basis of the teachings of Jesus and, the story of his sacrifice being passed around through word of mouth.

In its infancy Paul and Silas along with others spread the word throughout the civilized world at the time. Later the Gospel was preserved in writing and Paul's guidance was slowly disseminated through his letters.

In the Church there was no collection of Scripture, which would give stability to church teachings, and as a result many varying ideas were slowly introduced into the concepts of the way in which the salvation of man was initiated by Jesus. This resulted in many, varying and quite frankly, dangerous misconceptions.

Some of these were the incorporation of the concept of reincarnation, which has no basis in Jesus teachings; Gnosticism , and an array of misinterpretations.

The Church went through a agonizing process of sanitizing the basic concepts of Christianity, and in the council meetings at Nicene established a common canon for use in the Church, which I personally feel was God's will.

Under the rule of Constantine in Rome this was required for Christianity to be adopted as the state religin of the Roman Empire.

At that time the Roman Empire ruled most of the civilized world, and all of the Roman Empire was required to teach only this and no other ideology. To this end the clergy was the path for dissemination of the standard teaching, and thus began the practice of one teacher in the Church, this responsibility was placed on the Cardinals who attended the conferences, and they in turn taught the priests. At that time there was no division of the Church.

Even as the church grew and went through its various schisms the concept of one trained teacher was incorporated into the break away factions. These break away factions, over the years have produced their separate canons, and have established their own institutes for the qualification of their ministers.

While the canons of various denominations differ widely, the concept of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus has held firm, and is the basis of all Christian denominations.

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