Category Archives: Growth and Discipleship

On the Hating of Christians

In John 15:18-24, Jesus talks about how the world will hate the disciples, just as it first hated him. On first glance, I’m thinking why would the world hate Jesus, I mean the Gospel’s a pretty powerful thing, it makes no sense. Or maybe it does… Jesus had a lot of hard words to say to religious folks, he up ended their power structures, he rolled the temple money changers, he stopped a woman caught in adultery from being stoned, he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton, he worked on Sunday. In other words, he convicted a lot of religious folks that they really weren’t all the righteous. Beyond that aspect… why would he be hated? Verse 25 gives us a clue in this in that it is fullfillment of what is written in the law. That he would be hated without reason.

As such, hate at some point or another should be expected, folks don’t like to be called on the carpet.  Alas, care is also needed in this… Christian’s should not expect to get a free pass from the world when they do heinous things. Psalm 35:19 is instructive in this…

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.

An old buddy of mine lives in Ireland, and his wife shared a news clipping a few days back… and the commentary was filled with hate for Christians. Probably some of the most intense hate I’ve ever encountered which prompted me to crank out this blog posting. The thing is, in this case, the hate of the world was not only reasonable, it was more than justifiable. Christianity did many horrendous things in ages long past… folks may have started out with seemingly good intentions, and then as time passed, they found it expeditious to do more and more evil, so that good would come… except good never came, rather evil enveloped Christianity. And in the case of the news clipping where 800 babies were buried in a septic tank by nuns as little as 50-60 years ago… to say nothing of what appears to be a failure to provide food and medical care, thus leasing to the demise of said children, its plain and simple evil. Considering there were many such homes, with some saying there may be as many as 7000 victims… Well, the world is going to condemn such actions in a huge way.

Sure, the scriptures tell us to flee sexual immorality, but there is NO excuse whatsoever to cast unwed mothers and their babies aside, much less to separate them and deny them food and medical care. I don’t care how much of a prude or sexual control freak one is, there is no place for actions done in the name of Christianity or even humanity for this.

And yet, you have the apologists for such actions saying well, abortion is much worse… but unlike Jesus, where he convicted religious people of their sin and was hated, the world doesn’t see abortion is worse, as many don’t see an embryo as really human. And yet, anyone can see that an unwed mother and her baby are just as human as the pope… and yet by the actions of those Christians,  the unwed mother and her baby must have been considered less than human.

I think its a similar deal with the hate experienced by the anti-biracial marriage folks of the past, or the anti-gay marriage folks of the present. The world says, hey you want to get married, go for it, where as some Christians say wait a minute, this isn’t right… and if it was left at a theological disagreement, there would be no hate in the matter. Alas, a small minority of Christians ie Fred Phelps types go off the deep end, where no fruits of the spirit can be found and hate abounds. Sadly, this small number of folks polarizes things and builds hate up on both sides.

I mean, its crazy making that parent child relationships end when a kid comes out gay and marries his partner. There is no loving God or loving one’s neighbor when a parent child relationship gets destroyed and/or a church or synagoge gets a bullet hole in if after being willing to marry a bi-racial or gay couple… and lots of innocent folks on both sides get caught up in it. Its going to take a long time to rebuild some of those relationships. Alas, I think Psalm 69:4 may be useful  in such… but it is a hard thing to handle too.

Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore what I did not steal.

Bottom line, hate without reason is what Jesus was talking about. Ie hate due to someone being convicted of sin, leads said convicted folks to hate the messenger… after all its a large part of why folks back then hung Jesus on the cross. Alas, this is much different than hate directed at the messenger for the damage the messenger created apart from the message. There is no get out of jail free card for that.

Random Thoughts on Syrian Refugees

I’ve been pondering this for a couple weeks. It seems there is a lot of diversity in opinion, and likewise a certain level of calling each other out as to what an appropriate Christian response might be. Each respective side think’s their’s is the correct one, and some have gone so far as to raise the “not a true Christian” argument thing. As such, some thoughts.

A small number of folks are convinced that as a nation with a Christian identity/history, to not take them in, would put us in the situation as Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49-50) and potentially bring God’s wrath upon our nation. In opposition, a likewise small number of folks believe Christian beliefs and actions need to be limited only to the church and to the individual. Ie, the entire US should not be put at greater risk by allowing the refugee process to continue.

On the one hand, I very much agree with Jamietheworstmissionary with her post “When we are all priests and levites” in reference to the parable of the good Samaritan. Ie, doing nothing should not be the answer. On the other hand, its a very complex and nuanced issue. The scriptures on innocent as doves and wise as serpents comes to mind.

According to  http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.ph pas of 11/21/2015 there are 4,289,792 refugees from Syria.

If we do bring in 10,000, then what about the other 4, 279,792 people? If we bring in 10,000 and something really bad happens, will we as the American people have the will to bring in more?

It would be disingenuous to state that their is no risk in doing this. Yes, it is very small, and certainly if a terrorist is determined to get on US soil, there are much easier paths than trojan horse action via refugee status., but when the door is opened, even with many checks and balances, the risk level will increase. Bottom line, no government process is perfect, whether it be refugee verification, ebola containment, or even our criminal justice system where innocent folks end up going to prison for many years.

Depopulating a country of diverse beliefs, leaving only Daesh, their supporters, and those neutral to said beliefs behind is likely not going to end well. Left in isolation, such is likely to turn into another conflict that dwarfs Iraq and Afghanistan, once US economic interests in the middle east are threatened, and/or we encounter directly attributable  on shore terrorist attacks.

Some suggest its just too expensive to screen and to receive refugees, especially so when we don’t take care of our veterans, our homeless, and our poor. Then again, should the aforementioned attacks on US soil, and/or our interests be threatened, it seems some will want to go to war over it. Such would likely mean committing 10,000 American lives, and 4 trillion dollars…. assuming double the life loss and costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Would not a more responsible choice be to make smaller sacrifices now, rather than waiting to the point that such large sacrifices have to be made?

Each one of the 10,000 is someone’s son or daughter, perhaps someones parent, each person saved is very likely to be someone else’s world.

The US, while having a strong Christian contingent and history is pretty diverse. Should a Hindi, Taoist, or even an Atheist be subject to increased risks, and/or increased taxes to assist the refugees? Even among Christian beliefs, there is a wide range, from pre-Augustines Christianity and its teachings of self sacrifice and pacifism to the point that even self-defense was condemned, all the way to post WWII Christian dominionism which adopts Aquinas views to an extreme and adds tribalism on steroids to the mix. (A contemporary Augustinian struggle on this can be found starting at this comment on John Pavlovitz blog, as well as this posting on pacifism and militarism through the years with the Stone Campbell movement).

Christian views on tribalism are exceedingly diverse as well. Some Christians view super tribalism as near Christian dogma, vs others view the teachings of Christ as anti-tribalistic. Taken to extremes, does Matthew 25 require total submission to Christ, including sacrificing self, as well as family (Luke 14:26), church, and country to assist anyone, even non-believers? Or does Matthew 25 only refer to the least of these as believers in ones immediate faith community, and that family, church, and country should rarely if ever make sacrifices… and that even self sacrifice must be limited.

For Christians who ascribe to pronatalism and see birthrate evangelism as the primary means of fulfilling the great commission, the idea of 10,000 Islamic refugees strikes terror in their heart. Ie, they fear Christianity becoming a minority religion with a correspondingly massive loss in privilege… and considering that recent US history shows birthrate and immigration driven evangelism to be the most effective forms in the US, said fear seems justifiable to folks holding that worldview.

In a similar vein, some are concerned with sharia law. Alas, will 10,000 people really make a difference in a society of 320,000,000? Even more so, would the US seriously consider rolling back gay marriage, women’s rights, and our monetization of sex at every turn? Realistically, even if they found a number of like minded people, the economic powers that be would never let that happen. There is just too much money at stake for it to be considered.

There are no easy answers to this, and a lot of unintended consequences no matter which way we turn. Alas, I don’t think we want to be priests and levites either.

kNOw Jesus kNOw Peace???

I was at a Casting Crowns concert at the WI state fair, and was blown away… it was so cool to see them live. The music was awesome, the messaging was incredible, the energy was amazing. 0810152227a

 

The only downside was the recurrent struggle I run up against with their theology. Its not just theirs either, but actually a good chunk of contemporary Christian theology.  I’ll go even further and state it was also a theology I lived and promoted years ago. In its simplest form, its probably best demonstrated by the following tshirt graphic from www.notw.com.

knowjesus

At the outset, the above sounds great, it seems to make logical sense, and we can find a significant number of scriptures supporting peace coming about from knowing Jesus.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The bugger in this, is despite the scriptural support, its rarely lived out as a matter of practice. Many devoted Christians do not have peace, many non-Christians have found peace surpassing the peace exhibited by many Christians. This is a recurrent challenge I run up against with my prior as well as Casting Crowns underlying theology. We’re preaching a message that while true in many ways, ends up not ringing true in practice and thus sends messages which outside of a few theological bubble lands, rarely rings true.

My friend Mike posted some profound stuff on facebook this AM which got me thinking on this.

I was standing in line at Target and in the line there were two Christian women who kept raving about how “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” non-Christians are.

I walked out of the store, put my Frank Turner album in, and see one of these ladies drive in the same direction in front of me. She has the infamous, “Know Jesus, Know Peace/ No Jesus, No Peace” bumper sticker on her car.

What struck me as I was driving was that a sociopath or narcissist could do horrible things without regret, shame or guilt. While a Christian could give up a destructive life pattern, and because there’s change and repressed emotions, there’s anxiety, stress, and other unexplained emotions. All if these good things but are the antithesis of emotional peace.

So there it is… a glaring example.. and perhaps more so, what about those Christians who choose to maintain sociopathic or narcissistic practices? What about chronic abusers who fail to leave such at the cross? We’ve all heard and many know of the “super Christian” in public thats the epitome of evil in private. Yes, they are forgiven by the blood of Christ… but the carnage and destruction they leave behind to say nothing of the witness they are showing… whoa.

Mike continues:

You can not feel peace or know peace but follow Jesus. You could not follow Jesus and feel completely okay about life. The failure of these women is they don’t see or trust in the Spirit who Comforts in trouble and a God who creates life out of chaos. This is the Presence of God, who is peace.

What these women also fail to see, as Stanley Hauerwas has taught me, the Gospel is more seen than believed in. We come to know the Gospel when we encounter Jesus. We see it when the Church us being the Church. We see it when Christians incarnate the Kingdom in the world. We see it in prayer, the Eucharist, and when we are loved like Jesus loves us. Embodying to someone that they are “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” does not embody this and allow them to see the Gospel we believe in. Our postures, attitudes, and reflections towards people say a lot about what we know about God and how God works in the world.

Mikes post really resonates with me, as there is a lot of great truth expressed within….

Going forward what to do about this? No Christian is going to be 100% on message 100% of the time, so we will always be falling short and shooting holes in our Gospel witness. By the same token, to throw the baby out with the bath water and not preach about the amazing peace available through Christ Jesus is not cool either. I sort of wonder if the answer isn’t some level of hard core authentic anthropology in combination with the scriptures. Such would create a significant amount of tempering, yet allow the scriptures to remain in full force at the same time. Belinda keyed me into something on this last night… the path is likely nowhere near as narrow as we project it to be, but it certainly can be a very odd and strange one at times.

The above all makes great sense within the confines of a community walking with Christ, its a whole other ball game when it comes to conveying such on a t-shirt or song lyrics. (Perhaps this is why something like the mass grandstand sing of Amazing Grace was so powerful).

Amazing Grace from the Grandstand
Folks singing amazing grace with their cell phones lifted high.

Consistent Ethic of Life?

Brandon stated: Dom Hélder Câmara talked about a ‘consistent ethic of life’, wherein *all* life possesses equal value, and the marked lack of a consistent ethic of life has been one of my long standing critiques of the “pro-life” (or more appropriately: “anti-abortion”) movement.
Links to http://thelewisnote.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-miscarriage-matters-if-youre-pro.html

When you spit the “anti-abortion” movement into its sexual purity vs the life aspect, the inconsistency almost completely goes away if one looks at the sexual purity side alone. 

Alas, said splitting off often leads to the heart wrenching commentary many of those ladies received post miscarriage. I’m guilty of this too, ie I would grieve for a highly promising youth group leader killed by a drunk driver on the way to church… but for someone who started out with 4 embryos via fertility treatments and only 1 took, not so much. It would be the same lack of grief for the unborn with the young couple who keeps on trying to have children, but the zygote never implants. 

The end state gets really ethically murky, as in the above situations, its no longer a natural or even probability issue… going in, its known that said actions will result in deaths, despite your hope that eventually one might survive. Its a similar murky deal as concerns environmental issues… ie we know with significant confidence that some pollutants and/or specific concentrations result in massive increases to the probability of miscarriage and/or fertility issues. We also suspect a few others, and there are many others which might lead to trouble but we turn a blind eye out of convenience / intentional ignorance. Bottom line, we as society as well as individuals have made the call either by pocket book or by voting that the cost of reducing the rate of miscarriages / infertility is too high to justify.

This then runs into the tribal values… ie a consistent ethic of life for the unborn while it sounds good is anathema to most groups who put a very high value on sexual purity. Environmental issues, reproductive science etc are not only counter to the tribal mores, they are a distraction from the bottom line issue of sexual purity… Ie, we need to stop abortion, we don’t want to splinter our efforts to save zygotes, they workaround it by stating the death of the unborn is by chance, or is natural, and its definitely not by intent… which flies in the face of observational evidence to the contrary.

If one does hold to a consistent ethic of life from conception… things get really sticky too. Ie, contraceptives prevent fertilization, but when you go off them, you now generate a bunch of zygotes of which you play the probability game for one to implant and to survive to birth, leaving who knows how many to die. Its probably a good thing that human nature overruns scientific knowledge or our species would cease to exist, at least within the confines of those who wish to ascribe to a consistent ethic of life from conception.

Ponderings on SSM

As pretty much everyone is aware, SCOTUS ruled in favor of SSM on Friday. Many celebrated with rainbow colored pictures, some expressed sadness and disagreement, and more than a few expressed great hate, anger, and condemnation.  Its ok to disagree with the ruling, but when the fruits of the spirit get cast aside and replaced with hate we (Christianity in general) have a big problem

I wrote on World Vision’s local church SSM autonomy policy and reversal about 15 months ago, where in I focused on folks who possess other than strong faith. Folks responses to Friday’s decision have many parallels to that posting, so I’ll copy a snippet….

The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon….

The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

Those experiencing the last straw are not just gay folks, not just young folks, not just old folks, but a wide variety of Christians from a whole multitude of life stories and denominations… this is a much bigger problem than what the govt does, or doesn’t do as concerns marriage.

Lastly, while I am pro SSM, I do allow opposing views on my blog comment stream… barring in mind that I will delete spam, TLDR, and hate comments. If you can keep it pastoral and disagree, do feel free to chime in. You won’t convince me, as I’ve studied this for over ten years, but the dialog may help those on the fence to lean one way or the other.

50 Shades of $500 Million

There is much lamenting and knashing of teeth in my universes over 50 Shades of Grey. As such, I figured this movie would go down like The Interview… but it didn’t. The first weekend box office figures were $85 million, even larger than Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Granted, ticket prices have gong up a lot since the Passion, but still the box office shows this to be an incredibly popular movie with world wide figures pushing $500 million this week.

One interesting bit, is that 2 groups who are normally at 180 degrees (feminists and conservative Christians) out of phase with each other are lamenting this movie. Libby Anne noticed this too and has a really cool write up on it. Her summary:

“But in general, what has evangelicals up in arms over Fifty Shades of Grey is its endorsement of premarital relationships and kinky sex, while what has feminists up in arms is its glorification of abuse and its perversion of kinky sex. This disagreement is rooted in a huge divergence in the two groups’ underlying sexual ethics.”

 

Divergence in sexual ethics makes sense as to the parallel upset, but it doesn’t explain the popularity, unless the groups are much smaller than they are normally sold to be. It would be cool to have audience stats and run some analysis, but such is pretty lacking at the point in the game. I was however able to find some some presales ticket numbers relative to forecasts.

1. Mississippi: 3.9x

2. Arkansas: 2.8x

3. West Virginia: 2.7x

4. Kentucky: 2.1x

5. Alabama: 2.0x

I find this strange in that a high level of teeth knashing seems to be coming out of the evangelical Christian domain, ie the Bible belt… it doesn’t add up, or does it?

I get the forbidden fruit connection to a film derived from lit porn, but in and of itself, I seriously doubt this is the primary driver. Rather, I think despite all of the objections, the film is hitting on right on target. Jamie the Worst Missionary goes into quit a bit of detail in a missionaries position on 50 shades of grey.

The question I keep coming back to, is instead of all the lamenting and/or tsk tsking, why not do something about it? I’m not suggesting shark jumping like a sermon series on kinky sex and the Songs of Solomon, but more so to drill right down to the relationship issues at the heart of things.

I get that such would not be an easy thing… perhaps more so in some theological world views than others… but sweeping issues under the carpet as they are too hard to deal with is not a good answer either.

The Nativity Scene Removal on Facebook

There is an internet meme concerning a nativity scene going around again.

fb_nativity

The picture at hand is a shows pretty amazing nativity scene. Despite the low res copy, “No Room for them in the Inn” is quite beautiful, and when one looks at a photo of a signed and numbered print, one can only imagine how much heart and soul the artist put into it.

It was not a simple task to determine who created the art in the first place, as whoever created the meme didn’t include the title of the piece, nor did they give the artist credit. Its almost as if someone found it, said cool, and then took it… with no regard for its creator. If I skip the cynicism bit, it is possible, albeit rare that this was a gift to the world, and the artist wanted to remain anonymous… alas, as an engineer, my cynicism often wins out so, so to prove it out one way or another google image search to the rescue!

Well, that wasn’t very helpful… 60,000+ facebook pages with a copy, and 548 copies on the web as well as some derivatives… and which one is the original one?

Being google imagesearch didn’t help, the next thing was to pull it into my photo editor and blow up what appears to be a watermark. Aha, Copyright Somerset House Publishing 2000.

When art is watermarked with a copyright without any additional licensing expressed, and or a statement used with permission, it is highly likely it is not free as in beer. In other words, its pretty likely whole multitudes of folks are using this persons art  as if it were freely given to them to use as they wish… including derivative works where Jesus is replaced with a football. Somersets terms are pretty clear that such is not cool without permission… and being no statement is include to suggest they have permission, this is a problem.

As such, the potential is there for facebook to receive a DMCA takedown notice from them, with the result that the images would be removed. I get that intellectual property law is a messy deal, so copying someone else’s art without permission to do so may not necessarily be theft in every ones mind. Otoh a common theme throughout both the old and new testament is that the laborer is worthy of his wages. There also the issue of double honor for those who preach and teach…

From the artists bio page at Concordia publishing…

Concordia Publishing House is proud to represent internationally known Christian artist, Tom duBois. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Mr. duBois faithfully and passionately shares the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through his art.

Granted, this is an internet meme hardly worth the time to blog about in isolation, since there has been no DMCA takedown, and I agree with the underlying premise of it. Otoh temptation to short cut, to do a little evil so much good may come is all around us. Politicians lie about each other to get elected. Public servants throw the law under a bus in order to do well. Business push the limits and bend the law to make more money. Folks fire off a quick text, shave, or put on makeup while rolling down the interstate. Its all of us, and in many cases, the little evil bit doesn’t bite, at least not right away… so we go along fat dumb and happy, until that car shows up out of nowhere, and pfft you are gone.

* The artists webpage at triuneart.org is down, but google provided links to some of his art and writinghs. Its well worth taking a look.

Rigging the Game

Its interesting to see how different sectors of Christianity approach a given problem. We see broken folks doing evil stuff and yet good comes about much of the time anyhow. We even see this in the scriptures, going all the way back to Moses, or even David knocking off a guy as he got the dudes wife pregnant, or Rahab lying to protect her guests. One could think the bit about being wise as serpents and gentle as doves, or even the parable of the unrighteous steward, could justify that a good end is all that counts, no matter how much evil needs to be put in motion to get there.

Yet, the scriptures taken as a whole point to a different path, a high road, which might well be much more difficult where in the good is not illuminated until nearly the end, if it is at all. We have Paul’s words in Romans that it is not cool to do a little evil so good may come. Such are hard words to hear, and even harder ones to try and live out when much of daily life is predicated upon any number of evils. Pretty much unless one retreats from the world, and even then, a reliance on some level of evil is likely to remain, as few if any can really be an island onto themselves.

Thank goodness for God’s grace.

I’m reminded of the 1944 Bing Crosby film called Going My Way.

Low res scaled down images of movie films used for commentary are believed to fall under US fair use doctrines.
Going My Way

In the early part of the film, Bing plays a young priest who catches some youngsters stealing chickens, but they get away from him. Later that evening he is treated to a big dinner by an old parish priest who midway through the meal talks about the gratitude he has for the youngsters who gave him a chicken… Bing puts 2+2 together that they were eating a stolen chicken and chows down, all the while you can see the elderly priest fixing to turn green… The proverbial meat sacrificed to idols was on the big screen! Alas, it plays out right here, right now as well. If it had not been for the early days of internet porn, the massive bandwidth we enjoy today would not have been affordable, and might well not have even been possible.

That being said, it is something else to specifically choose evil so good may come. In the case of the above movie, it would be exceedingly evil to entice the kids to steal chickens so the priests could have a good meal once in a while. There in lies the difference and this is what I find disturbing…

If the church is to be presented as the bride of Christ, rigging the game, or manipulating the crowd even with the best of intentions is not cool. There is nothing pure and blameless by using legal, albeit less than ethical methods to gain favor in the worlds eyes. Even more so, when the world can see this plain as day, what sort of message is this really sending? Was Paul really that far off the mark in his letters to Timothy? Did he really mean that its well and good to do *a little evil that good may come? I don’t think so…

* In fairness, some Christians define evil as only things that are explicitly called out in their interpretation of the scriptures. I can understand the allure of that pov as the lack of grey make life a lot easier, but I’m far from convinced such is what Paul was really getting at.

Proselytism is solemn nonsense: Pope Francis Rocks

Pope Francis hit one out of the ballpark with his commentary on proselytism. While in isolation, one might view his comments as counter to the great commission, I tend to believe, like much of his other commentary, that he is looking at things from a big picture view.

Lets consider Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The big thing about the great commission is the making of disciples, from thence, comes Baptism, and obedience. There is no mention of numbers of altar calls, decisions for Christ, church memberships, number of folks in worship, church finance etc…  Matthew 28:16-20 is about making disciples, which is a failure for the majority of most denominations and churches.

Discipleship making is challenging, and it takes time. Contemporary Christianity is obsessed with the quick and dirty, even if its outcomes are questionable at best.

  • Some go so far as to twiddle and selectively decontext Acts 17 into a form of offend and stir up trouble, manufacture a need for God and repentance, manipulate folks into a Jesusy decision, and then leave for others to clean up the mess. El Chupacabra, a missionary writes about trying to clean things up after such quick fix attempts have passed through. Some of the evangelees commentary is telling:
“I knew they wouldn’t help us without getting something out of it. You christians are all like that.”
“Why do they use the same testimony; I used to party with girls/booze/drugs, but my life was meaningless before Jesus and now that He is with me everything is great? Do they teach you that s^#%?  Does it ever work?”
“If we are accepting Jesus into our lives shouldn’t He know? Why do they make us raise our hands then, is it so they can count us up to tell everyone back home how great they are?”
  • Others take the stance that faith must be private and exclusive, they don’t want anyone other than folks just like them entering into their world. In other words, unless you behave exactly like they do, belong exactly as they do, only then do you have the chance to hear about Christ.  Such is the proverbial behave, belong, believe model… in a highly communal and personally interdependent culture, this can work out somewhat. In a culture of radical individualism and isolationism as embraced by much of today’s world, not so much.
  • A majority of folks view the great commission, through what Hous calls, birthrate evangelism. Ie, the only way to make disciples is to crank out more and more babies…  With ever increasing birthrates, this can make the numbers look good, but numbers rarely reflect the hearts and minds. Bottom line, disciples are made, not merely born and left to flounder and eventually walk away.

Alas, the Holy Spirit is not limited by man’s ineptness.

Despite the failures of all of the above discipleship does happen some of the time. The danger in this, is that the tendency is to think because something sort of works, its the right and in some cases, the only right answer.

Rather, its mostly nonsense, the above methods rarely show the light of Christ, and real love for one another tends to be a rarity. Its almost as if we’ve sold out the Gospel for the quick and dirty.

Consider Pope Francis comments and context:

Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.

His is a big picture view, reflecting Matthew 5, Acts 17, and while not explicitly inclusive of Matthew 28, it most certainly is implied. Its a restructuring of the behave, belong, believe model to reflect the reality of modern culture (and realistically the culture of the early church).

Bottom line, Pope Francis seems to be advocating a means of organic Holy Spirit driven discipleship making by the opening of hearts and minds. Its not something forced, inauthentic, or driven by ulterior motives as many of the quick and dirty approaches are perceived, or that proselytism nonsense can easily morph into.

 

 

Flipping Sunday School & Multigenerational Integration

From a memory science perspective, Sunday school should not be expected to work all that well, and in general it doesn’t. The primary reason being if you are exposed to a given subject on Sunday, and then never hear of it again, or even anything related to it until the following Sunday, the probability of remembering much of it is pretty low.

This isn’t really anything new, the overall concept of frequent engagement with material has have been around since my Aunt was teaching in a one room school house back in the 1920s. It doesn’t matter whether one ascribes to the more technical approach of Thorndike, or the more humanistic approach of Dewey, if there is too much of a gap between exposures, retention will be compromised.

Luther had some ideas on this as I blogged about Blooms Taxonomy in Luther and the Flux Capacitor. Curricula developers know this as well, and try to work around it using as many tools as they can. Some have gone so far as to set the lectionary aside in light of their own system which integrates Sunday School lessons with the sermon text. Bottom line, its still an uphill battle. Sunday School system design is for the most part counter to our brains natural function.

What’s needed is a way to integrate Sunday school lessons with the entire week, not just a single hour event which repeats every 168 hours. In addition, there are some who find age segregation problematic, and would like to see more of an inter-generational model.

One possibility to combine both of the above is the flipped classroom model. While scientific research on flipping in public school edu is pretty limited, anecdotal evidence so far seems promising. It would seem if it can work in the public school environment, it would seemingly work even better for Sunday school due to the system imposed limitations.

An explanation of flipping is probably called for at this point. In the typical classroom most of us know/remember, students are exposed to a subject, interact a bit with their teacher, given work to do either in class, or at home, and then evaluated.

In the flipped model, the initial exposure, and a bit of activity are done outside of the classroom, thus creating much more time for peer / peer and teacher / student interaction in class. By outside the classroom, the exposure to material is commonly done via video, perhaps on youtube, or in some areas via take home DVD’s.

One reported advantage is increased retention as rather than a 1 hour class which conflicts with the brains ability to process about 10 minutes of information, the videos are short, and can easily be played back on demand. Another big deal, is that by moving the activity portion into the classroom, rather than leaving it to the students own time off hours, feedback is immediate, and misconceptions can be addressed early on.

One of the non-obvious bits I’ve picked up on this issue of flipping is that rockstar guru videos don’t work all that well. Its fascinating that often times the zero budget, quickly done video of the teachers own creation works better than the high production value, super polished videos of the guru. I tend to think its because of a personal connection more so than the customizable aspect of DIY.

Consider that for most folks, their pastor is not a rockstar preacher and yet only a few would consider replacing them with video screen of a guru. I think a large part of this is that the personal connection aspect plays a greater role than greater preaching skill and/or depth of topical knowledge in the domain of a rockstar guru preacher video.

Thus my wild idea of multi-generational integration…. What if the videos for flipping were made by a cross section of a given congregation? Ie, there is a huge depth and breadth of knowledge in the pew. Why not leverage this with 30-60 second segments featuring different folks of all ages through out a flipped video series?

Why not connect the Sunday school class to the wisdom of the entire congregation? Ever further, consider those with distant links to the physical worship space. Ie, it might even be possible that a student off at university a thousand miles away might be in the same video with a OTR truck driver, or a home bound member, or someone in a nursing home.