Relate-do-teach

A good sermon in which the minister suggests we shouldn’t be looking for good sermons

In our civic culture we are impressed by intelligence. In some churches intelligence is valued, but more often, it’s pulpit skills and the “anointing” that really float our boat. How is a pastor of a church typically chosen in our culture? By the answer to this question: “Is this person a good preacher?”  “Is he/she anointed?”

This means: “Will this person keep me accurately informed and excited on Sunday mornings through his/her preaching skills, and thereby draw more people to the service?”  We never ask: “Will this person turn my life upside down and be used of God to reconfigure me into the image of Christ?” That’s too personal and private a subject and no one has the right to go there but “me and God.”

The Hebrew and Greek definitions of knowledge incorporated the idea of participatory experience with the object of study. For them, the acquisition of correct information did not define knowledge. For us it’s the essence of knowledge. Until you had relational experience with the object of your knowledge, you were still considered ignorant. There’s no difference for them between word and work, thought and action. Jesus said that in order to understand His doctrine we must first do His works. For us word must precede work.

For us the essence of education and effective communication is: teach and do. For Semites it’s: do and teach—explanation following action. Throughout the Gospels Jesus would take his disciples aside after an event, or after He had done something, and then explain or attempt to explain it to them.

Our insistence upon understanding before acting is not a kingdom virtue. Consciously or otherwise, we want to understand “stuff” (e.g. sovereignty, free will, predestination, sanctification, etc.) before we exercise faith. We don’t recognize how deeply imprinted we are with this approach to life, including our experiential life in God.

In our culture, the acquisition of accurate facts and their skillful expression within a specified discipline is considered being educated. Freedom of thought and expression is considered an inviolate, supreme virtue. Whereas, in Greek (Eastern/Mediterranean basin) culture, a highly refined and educated person was someone who had mastered the art of public speaking and rhetoric. They were impressed by someone’s ability in public speaking. Young people were trained in the very formal rules of protocol for public speaking (rhetoric, forensics, homiletics) outlined in something called the progymnasmata. This was an instruction manual governing the composition and presentation of thought regarding either the praise of, or defense of, someone’s honor through public speech. It was the McGuffey’s reader of their day.

Consider our typical worship services. The centerpiece is the sermon. The basic concept of a sermon (as we experience it)—a group of people passively listening to a professional who through mastery of forensic, rhetoric, and homiletic skills stirs a crowd mentally and emotionally with good “Bible talk”—is pagan.  If we removed the content (the Bible), what would remain would be a completely pagan, Grecian concept!

In our civic culture we are impressed by intelligence. In some churches intelligence is valued,but more often, it’s pulpit skills and the “anointing” that really float our boat. How is a pastor of a church typically chosen in our culture? By the answer to this question: “Is this person a good preacher?”  “Is he/she anointed?”

This means: “Will this person keep me accurately informed and excited on Sunday mornings through his/her preaching skills, and thereby draw more people to the service?”  We never ask: “Will this person turn my life upside down and be used of God to reconfigure me into the image of Christ?” That’s too personal and private a subject and no one has the right to go there but “me and God.”

Ancient education focused on the moral, mental, and personality formation of a human being. Individuals were shaped, molded, and formed by their mentors and teachers whose stamp they henceforth bore. In this regard, it more accurately reflects a kingdom virtue and value system than our system of the transmission of information.

We embrace without question the “stimulate me with rhetoric” ethics of antiquity, and ignore with a passion the character conforming element of the same ethics as a violation of my personhood and right to privacy. Think about the number of times you have said—“Good sermon, Pastor!”—because you either agreed with it intellectually or were stirred by it emotionally. So what? That’s not a kingdom value system, nor a kingdom response.

Due in part to five hundred years of over-emphasis on one gift (the pastor-teacher) our entire approach is: teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach-teach, and . . . more teaching, as if the classroom/lecture/sanctuary/lesson/sermon paradigm is the answer to all of life’s problems. An imbalanced or immature pastor-teacher’s grace can view “another class” as the answer for every need in the life of a believer. That’s what they do . . . they teach.

At an irreducible core level, problems in the kingdom of God are solved by deepened relationships, not more information.

This is accomplished first by more accurately relating to God (Christ), then our selves in personhood (self-understanding in His light), and finally relating to others. If our teaching methodology resembled: relate-do-teach, relate-do-teach, instead of at best “teach-do” and more commonly, “teach-cross your fingers-and nag them into obedience,” we would more closely approximate a kingdom methodology.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Culture and Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s