Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blame Kyle

Below is a response I was going to leave in the comments to the last post, BUT, after thinking about it, I wanted to (i) highlight Kyle's comment (because it's highly informed and thoughtful, and he has his own significant learning and teaching experience which is different from mine), which you can read in the comments of the previous post, and (ii) give my thoughts on it separately here:

Yo! Kyle,

You can opine here anytime! I'll take your comment above all as a double compliment: 1) that my post was interesting enough to read through and comment thoroughly upon, and 2) you must believe my attention span to be above average. :)

Really, thanks for interacting with some really good stuff (how's that for an educated vocabulary?). This was my favorite quote: "The pedagogy of the early third century Eastern theologian, Gregory Nazianzen, was, 'let us teach dogmatically today and discuss tomorrow.' I'm with you on not dismissing lecture altogether (which you'll see in the next post). I just lectured a little last night, as a matter of fact. (Though, I wonder if Gregory would substitute a reading assignment for a dogmatic lecture if his entire church had access to what we have access to . . . just a thought.) For me, the issue of teaching is at least significantly one of emphasis within all our formational practices, and what we're hoping to accomplish when we teach. That will affect how we teach and many other things. I think teaching is important. That said, the sermon/lecture has become the evangelical sacrament in many, many circles (faith comes by hearing, and that of the word of God), sometimes an end in itself, rather than one of many tools to assist in the making of mature disciples.

Relatedly, having a "head pastor" has become the chief necessary ingredient in Evangelical ecclesiology. To quote or at least paraphrase John Wimber, "The modern era has been a blessing in many, many ways, but it hasn't done much for our pneumatology." Similarly, it's also created distinct and easily recognizable problems in our ecclesiology and our soteriology especially. These all affect what churches pursue in the world and in their own people, and how. For example, I don't think that you should be saddled with the burden of a 'holier-than-other-Christians' title in order to be given space in your community to use your gifts and training with passion and as often God inspires within broad communal boundaries. Why can't there be multiple people whom the community has recognized as having a particular gift to teach? These folks can work together and sharpen each other and the community. Can't they, in turn, train and involve others in their discipline and work, all within one community? Certainly. And when it comes to decision making in the body, the Quakers, some monastic orders, and even AA have, in my view, embodied a more biblically sound practice and government, namely, a "pneumocratic" body of brothers in which the members discuss and discern together, looking for consensus, not mere 'majority vote' on what God is doing in a particular situation. Of course, some voices will carry more weight than others, which is appropriate, but the Spirit can also speak through the most unexpected sources, and many will recognize his voice when they hear it, no matter the messenger. There is more here, but you get the idea.

Though, clearly, modernism has not and does not stop God from accomplishing wonderful things in the most modern (and lecture oriented!) churches, many times over. To not see this is a mistake.

But the splinters remain for me, both from experience and from what I see God doing (and how) in the scriptures. BTW, my favorite take on a functional approach to church decision making is stated nicely in a brief study by the Center for Parish Development, called "Gathered Together to Seek and to Do God's Will."

Hope you all are doing well. I'll roll out the next post soon.