I walked through the hall of the elementary school with my good friend, Cheryl Witucki. I was going to get a guided tour of her magical kingdom. She taught a combined second and third grade class in a suburban setting. As we approached the doorway I knew I was in the right spot. Over the door hung a large sign that read, “You Are Now Entering Wituckiland.” As I walked into the room it was set up as no other classroom I had ever seen. Then I laughed. Above the teacher’s chair, set in a very prominent place, was another sign. This one read, “Queen Witucki.”
Allow me to let you in on the “inside scoop.” Cheryl shared her passion for teaching as we drove to her school. As she shared I could tell her passion for teaching grew out of her passion for kids.
The two signs made it clear she was the one in charge. But what she was doing with these second and third graders was amazing to me. Not only did she have them writing research papers, she was also teaching them conflict resolution. That’s right—conflict resolution and research papers with a combined class of second and third grade kids! Here is the outstanding piece! These were not “special advanced learners.” Cheryl had told me that one of her students was living in a car with his homeless family.
Now I know I am an old guy. I am sure none of this comes as a surprise to many of you. This must be especially true for those of you who are part of the education system in America. But it blew my socks off. I never wrote a research paper until I was in high school. Conflict resolution was not even on the radar screen for me and my classmates. For us, conflict resolution took place on the way home from school (if you know what I mean).
The way Cheryl dealt with conflict resolution dazzled me even more. When there was a behavior problem in the classroom a community meeting was held. The kids would discuss the situation under the watchful eye of Queen Witucki. Then they would follow a simple process. This lead to the development of a solution for the problem. Of course Queen Witucki had the final say but wow were these kids learning powerful life lessons.
Before we get into this next Religious Barricade I need to make one point clear. I appreciate teachers. I especially appreciate my brothers and sisters in Christ who enter the classroom every day. People like Cheryl and Ruth Gunnerson and many others blow my socks right off my feet. At one time I was studying to become an elementary school teacher. The creativity, patience and understanding that is needed is way beyond my imagination. These attributes, demonstrated by Cheryl in her classroom, were off the charts. Today Cheryl is training the next generation of teachers.
All of this said, the next barricade we will look at is the educational process we use in the church. This is one more religious barricade that keeps us from becoming all Father has called us to be. This barricade works against us both individually and corporately.
To understand the problem and why it is a barricade we must understand three important factors.
The first factor is all about faith and believing.
These two English words are used the majority of time to translate words in the Bible, one of which is the root word. Each time the Greek appears and is translated “believe” it is a verb. It is not a noun. There are places in the New Testament where the context of the word translated “faith” may refer to something akin to a “statement of faith.” At these times it is a noun. However the best description of faith in the New Testament (using the noun form) is found in Hebrews 11. Here “faith,” as a noun is characterized by describing things people did. It is not characterized by something to which people mentally asserted.
What must be drawn from this is the fact that Christian faith is not a system of “belief statements.” It is not something to which we only mentally adhere. Christian faith is an action, a way of life. The reformers hated the fact that the book of James is in the Bible. Nonetheless “Faith without works is dead” for FAITH is active not passive.
The apostle Paul starts and ends the book of Romans with the same phrase—“The Obedience of Faith.” Everything he was about, everything God has done, is to bring about the obedience of faith. The one book of the Bible which is the heart of evangelical “doctrine” speaks of faith as “active obedience.” Paul knew that Faith was so much more than a “statement of faith” to which people adhere. Doctrine is important but “Faith” is a way of living. It is not simply adhering to philosophical religious ideas. There is a mental aspect to faith but if it stays in the head it is dead!
The second factor we must understand is how people learn to live life.
One of my favorite things I learned in sales training and coaching was said by David H. Sandler. He wrote a book on sales by the same name—“You Can’t Learn To Ride A Bike In A Seminar.” There is much you can learn in a seminar or in a classroom. You can learn about the history of bikes. You can learn the working parts of a bike. You can learn the physics of balance and forward movement. In fact, you can walk out of a classroom and know everything you need to know about riding a bike. One problem. You still can’t ride a bike. People learn how to ride a bike—by riding a bike.
People learn to live life in the same way they learn to ride a bike—through doing. They learn to live life even better by watching someone live life—a teacher. Then they need to live life with the teacher. Then the person teaching them to live life must watch. The “teacher” must watch them to make sure they are living life correctly. Next they are released to live life on their own and report back to the teacher. The final step—they begin the process all over again with someone else. They become the teacher. This is how you learned to ride a bike as well. This is what Queen Witucki was doing in her classroom in the area of conflict resolution. This process should surprise no one. It happens every day in families around the world—functional and dysfunctional families alike.
NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!!! This is how Jesus taught life in the Kingdom of God to his disciples. This is how he taught them faith. This is what I call the Jesus System or Lifestyle Learning.
The third factor you must understand, in order to understand this next barricade, is how Paul mimicked the Jesus System.
First he would preach where the gospel had never been heard before. Yet Paul did not go alone. He always had a group of disciples with him. He came with a ready-made community of faith. When people responded to the message of Jesus they became a part of that community. Yes, Paul taught like we teach today. He preached like we preach today. (Ok probably better than most of us.) But he went one important indispensable step further.
We receive insight to his “Jesus System” of creating disciples in his work with the Thessalonians. Here we read that Paul’s attitude was one of a mother and a father to the new converts. He and his associates formed a family setting. Paul described his and his associates’ commitment to the new converts as “affectionately desirous” for them. Who can stay away from people to whom they feel “affectionately desirous?” This was true to such an extent that they were ready to give their own lives to the converts; not just the gospel message! They were ready to live INVESTED MINISTRY with people they were trying to help grow in the obedience of faith.
It was not just teaching.
It was not just preaching.
It was a community of INVESTED MINISTRY!
After spending a number of months (yes months not years), Paul and his companions left. But they did not leave the local community of faith to its own devises. They left overseers (elders) to continue the work they began with the people. These elders were chosen from among the new converts! These elders were but “a few months old” in the Lord! But they had undergone a system of discipleship training we have never seen in the 20th century.
Paul made it clear when he met for the last time with the elders from Ephesus that elders had authority. However their authority was for one purpose. They were to shepherd (pastor) the flock of God. How? Like Paul and his companions did with them—as invested mothers and fathers. They were to shepherd the community of faith by living their lives with the people. They were to do this in the same way a shepherd lives his life with the sheep. Oh yes they taught. Oh yes some probably preached. But shepherding is living life with people. Paul’s “Jesus System” was to live life with people in a “family” setting. Not a professional setting. Not a classroom setting. Not based on events and message only. Not based in anyway on a “business” model. These new convert elders followed Paul’s “Lifestyle Learning” and the world changed!
So what shall we draw from this?
Now with these three factors tucked tightly in the folds of our brain, let’s look at discipleship training today. As I have said in the past, the basic model of the church today is based on events and messages. Encapsulating this, as we learned last week, is a 20th century business model. Once again events will happen wherever people congregate. Messages are important, or I am just wasting my time writing these blog posts. Yet events are a poor substitute for community. On top of that, when message is the basic form of communicating the life of discipleship, faith becomes intellectualized. People struggle to live it out. Many take the path of least resistance and just focus on the intellectual pursuit of Christianity.
Today the main way people are prepared for local church leadership is by sitting in a classroom. They read, they discuss, they listen to the professors. They even struggle with concepts of doctrine and faith. Yet please help me understand this. Why are those training for medicine not considered Doctors until they work alongside a doctor for three years? Why is this true for those who are training to become a member of the trades? They are not considered ready for primetime until they work for years alongside a master craftsman. So why do we “inflict” the educated on the church straight out of seminary?
Hey guys in Pastoral ministry. Don’t get me wrong. I love you. But who walked the things you learned in seminary out with you in real life? I am sorry but I know you struggle with that. I know, because so did I.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians about five types of leaders: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastors and Teachers. There is a different construct in the original language when Paul gets to “Pastors and Teachers.” Some believe that these two leadership types are one. Yet a deeper study of the original language tells us these are two leadership types that are linked together. They are linked in a way where one becomes the subgroup of the other. Many see this as “Pastors” being a particular type of “Teacher.”
The word for teacher is where we get the word didactic. Didactic teaching is what happens in a classroom. Precept is laid upon precept until a whole concept is communicated. We need teachers in the church. They form the intellectual side or understanding side of faith. But teachers without shepherds is what has caused the intellectualization of Christianity.
Who walks life with people today? Who is invested in their lives like a “nursing mother” or an “exhorting father?” Where is the family effect of community? We have social gatherings but they are no more community than a dime is a million dollars.
When “Pastors” are turned into “Teachers” or seen as one-in-the same, we lose everything. The average “Pastor” in today’s system spends a minimum of 15 hours on sermon preparation. Then add to that all the administrative meetings and administrative work that comes across their desk. Where is there time for people, other than “pastoral counseling?” This is another professional posture. How can one person “do life” or be a “nursing mother” or “exhorting father” developing a family community with the entire congregation?
So we add “elders” to the mix. Yet today “elders” are not pastors. They do not live life with the sheep. They sit as a corporate board of directors and make decisions. They work on program development. They work on strategic goals. They work on vision and mission statements. In actuality they are infected by the 20th century business model.
In Paul’s “Jesus System” elders have one major overriding purpose. That purpose is to live life with people. They are the ones to develop the “family community.” They are the nursing mothers and the exhorting fathers.
We need pastors—elders—who walk life with people!
We need to get these pastors out of the board room and into the fields with the sheep!
We need to move through the classroom and into real life!
I sat in a Starbucks working on one of my books. I noticed a young lady ferociously devouring a very large text book. This text book had all kinds of multi-colored “sticky notes” sticking out of many pages.
At some point I took a break and went to have my “Mint Majesty” tea refilled. Because I had to walk past her and because I enjoy people and their “story” I struck up a conversation. (Ok Ok those of you who know me also know one more important thing. This is the first step in seeing if Father will develop a redemptive/transformational relationship.)
The young lady told me she had just finished nursing school. She was now studying for your nursing certification test. I asked what her favorite part of nursing school was. She quickly replied, “It was the clinicals.” Clinicals are where you actual get to do nursing under the watchful eye of a registered nurse. I asked why this young lady preferred the clinicals over the classroom. The answer blew my socks off once again. (I know, I go around barefooted often.)
“Oh I want to be a nurse. I was fascinated by clinicals. That is what I want to do. In fact, I remember everything from my clinicals.”
I asked if she had not learned everything in the book in the classroom.
“Oh yes, we went over the entire book. However I cannot remember anything from class. I remember everything from clinicals. I have to cram to remember the stuff from class.”
I smiled and began to share my concepts about learning to live Christian faith. We talked about the “Jesus System.” She was fascinated and ended the conversation with a dramatic emphasis.
“Wow, no wonder I have such a hard time
living what they talk about at church all the time.”
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