Thursday, January 20, 2005

Post-Restoration Hope #6: Get off your butt

I was sitting in my office dinking around with how church is done at my church and this is what happened. This is a draft and by no means a finished product, so feedback is welcome - needed.

Proposal For Spiritual Formation Structure To Replace Education Structure

The SWCC currently uses an education-based model for spiritual formation. Although the classes offered are generally fair to good in quality, they are almost exclusively knowledge-based classes which do not move class attenders to action. In short, the program functions to allow for knowledge accumulation, but little else. The message this sends (and reinforces from our heritage and tradition) is that all we need is to know what is right, or to be “right with God” in our doctrinal understandings. The fatal flaw of this model is that it creates hearers of the Word, but makes no special provision for create doers of the Word.

This is a proposal for the replacement of an education-based spiritual formation program to an equipping-based spiritual formation program. What this plan would do is move people to action in ministry in tangible and meaningful ways. Bible learning would not be reduced to knowledge accumulation, but rather would move right into service and ministry, the very thing most people want to do anyway.

Below is a chart differentiating the two models:

Education-based model Versus Equipping-based model
Knowledge for knowledge sake V. Knowledge for ministry sake

End result: Being right V. End result: Being good

Self-service V. Serving others

Purpose: Knowledge accumulation V. Purpose: Service

Stays in the classroom V. Leaves the classroom

Consumer V. Producer

Passive V. Active

Audience V. Army

Comfort Zone V. Stretch

Knows what to do V. Does it

What this proposal would do would be to replace all Sunday morning classes with ministry-driven groups. What would happen on Sunday morning is that people would meet in a classroom for the purpose of learning how to do a ministry, plan on doing a ministry, and then doing a ministry. Each group would be lead or facilitated by a ministry leader. That person would equip, train, and lead this group in some kind of ministry.

The reason for Sunday morning is that people must be given a viable choice to minister, or they will not. Ministry cannot be an add-on or be put in a place of little prominence. Accumulating Bible knowledge can be done at other times and alone even. In fact, bringing Bible study into one’s own personal life can be much more powerful than only in corporate life.

Myths:
Our people will become Biblical illiterates
. The fear is that our people will become Biblical illiterates if we do not give them a steady diet of Bible, and that is true. However, what we are currently doing is giving them only a diet of knowledge. That is extremely unhealthy. Sunday morning sermons will remain Biblical. House Church and small groups would still use the Bible. And furthermore, the Bible will not be left out of these classes, rather, it will come to life as people actually do something intentional rather than intend to do something, but have to fit it in to something else.

Class attendance will diminish. This matters only if we’re counting noses in order to consider ourselves a success. What would be more successful, fewer people doing more or more people doing less? And furthermore, I think when people get used to it, they will be more dedicated, more loyal and more excited than they are now.

New Christians will miss out on crucial knowledge. What they might miss out on in theory they will compensate for in practice. People learn by doing far better than they do by listening. They will learn the love of Christ by being embedded in a group of people loving God and people in the way of Jesus. Then, when they do read those passages about Christ’s love, they will not find them hollow or distant, but rather they will be in full color because their experience justifies their reading of scripture.

It might not be Biblical. What is not Biblical is learning, learning, learning, but not doing, doing, doing. How many scriptures in the Bible focus on Jesus studying the scripture versus the number of scriptures focusing on Jesus ministering to people? Jesus was either ministering to the lost, equipping his disciples, or alone in prayer. He did know the scriptures, but the only purpose to know them was to use them. Knowing isn’t enough.

This is really different. Yes, it is. This is actually not a myth. It is a complete departure from church as usual. It is what is going to help keep Southwest relevant in a culture that is falling asleep in church if it even gets to church. Think of the news report on KAIT: Southwest Church Scraps Sunday School In Order To Serve People. We could go about loving people, no strings attached, in the way of Jesus.

Examples of types of equipping offerings:

Artistic
-Drama
-Visual Art
-Music, praise team
-Dance
-Writing

Teaching
-Learning how to teach children
-Nursery
-Preschool
-Elementary
-JH / HS

Service / Social Justice
-Feeding the hungry
-Shelter for the homeless
-Visit pediatric cancer unit
-Handyman/handywoman

Leadership
-House Church
-Deacons
-Elder
­-Support groups
-Church planting

Missions
-Guyana
-Hungary
-Memphis
-Jonesboro

Family Education
-Parenting
-Marriage

11 comments:

Matt said...

Chris-

You are hitting on some things that are very close to my heart, friend! As a lifetime CoC member, I'm becoming convicted of the need for a radical reconsideration of how "bible class" is done.

I think there is a time and place to study scripture. But it needs to be done in the context of spiritual formation, prayer, and (ultimately) ministry, not simply an exchange of information.

Keep on preachin'!

jettybetty said...

I think your ideas are very good. Of course, some of the time there will be no need for "class" with your model and some of the time the ministry might not happen on Sunday. In other words, I thnk you might, at least in some cases be moving this time away from Sundays altogether. I don't think that would be bad at all.
I just don't think "Sunday School" is really working any more. I can't remember who started it or when, but I am certain it was not the apostle Paul. I think it probably worked great for years in a different cultural context.
I am not against group Bible study. Most of the time that is not what happens in "Bible Class." One man teaches the rest of us. We are spoon fed and learn wee little bits.
I am in a small group of ladies that meets for at least 2 hours on Monday nights. We commit to doing about 30 minutes of homework a day. I learn much in my private time, but I learn so much through these ladies. We pray for each other. We email what we learn during the week. We are truly involved in each other's lives. This works for me.
I do appreciate your thoughts! We could always do more ministry in the name of Jesus.
Betty

Keith Brenton said...

You just took some of the dark out of my spiritual mirror, Fajita!

The most memorable and joyful time I can remember while teaching a Single Again class several years back was when we "adopted" a family at Christmas, a single-mom family of three who had requested holiday help by filling out a card at a TV station. We picked their card. We took a tree, lights and decorations to their little two-room-and-bath apartment. We took clothes and gifts. The little boy was sick, and the oldest was looking after her two siblings while mom was at her second job that night. A doctor in the group gave him medication samples. It did more for our group than it could for the family ... brought them out of their own hurts due to divorce and death by helping folks with even deeper ones.

What's the old saying? "We learn by doing"?

David U said...

Ok, here's the deal........you need to write a book. End of story. Yea, it will upset lots of folks. So did turning the tables over in the temple.

Bottom line, we have been focused on US way way too long. We have made being "unique and distinct" an idol.
We have a saving good news that can't be contained in our four walls.

Be sure to communicate that you are talking about "corporate" ministry. At least I think that is the thrust of your observations. There are LOTS of people who are involved in individual ministries on a daily basis, such as being a parent, being a spouse, and being light and salt 50 or 60 hours in their professional lives. You are not trying to diminish those good works at all with your suggestions.

I think of God's words to the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel. The fellowship that I am currently a member of uses this as their mission statement. I think it is a wonderful balance of taking care of the flock, yet also equally telling others the good news. What a surprise......God has things in the right perspective!
Here are his instructions:
A) Bound up the injured
B) Bring back the strays
C) Search for the lost
D) Strenghten the weak

You can't improve on God's wisdom.

Thanks Chris!

JP said...

Great commentary Chris, Enjoying your blog posts. Would you mind if I add it my blog list. Thanks

lee said...

Chris: found you by Keith's recommendation.
Amen to your blog post!--Lee

Here's my nickel's worth: When church leaders recently decided to promote Sunday AM class attendance, they asked for congregational input prior to the organization of "exciting" new classes.

My request was for mission-oriented groups, where scripture is studied and applied, experiences shared,gifts identified, and training provided in particular areas of service while family bonds are strengthened. In other words, everybody has a job description! As a female voice in a good ol' boy culture, I decided to submit anonymously.

I realized what a wimp I am, so I wrote the request on another survey form, signed my name, and thought, well, now that there’s two of us, the idea won't seem so radical!

Being convicted of my Sunday School drop-out status, even if it was a response to superficial sociality and dogmatic doctrine, I eagerly anticipated the shake-up of an segregated system and prayerfully considered which new class to join. When I arrived on the inaugural Sunday, however, I found a room swollen with familiar faces of similar age and lacking ethnic and economic diversity. Despite the valiant efforts of a servant minded teacher and class leaders, the group soon settled into complacent patterns, business as usual including the traditional ornament gift Christmas party.

I explained to my teacher friend that I was urgently needed in another group, one in danger of extinction because its small number didn't justify the room it was assigned. In this group of new acquaintances, I am the minority race, gender, and age. The discussion desperately needs consistent leadership and it clings to "male" dominance and Sunday morning mentality. Due to its intimate size, however, there is a refreshing transparency and accountability. Still, I'm growing discouraged with the lack of focus. Your post has inspired me not to bolt, but to pray to be an agent of change. I thought it would take a large group to implement big service, but I realize I am guilty of limiting God, aren’t I?

The desire for the practical training you describe has been tapping at my shoulder for some time. I changed the curriculum of the classes I taught at the church pre-school to include monthly service projects for four year olds and their families to supplement or replace the seasonal themes routinely celebrated every month. (Sadly, I suspect these efforts to define “pre-school” were abandoned after my tenure. Easter egg baskets and photo ops on ponies prevail.)

Six years ago, I was introduced to Bible Study Fellowship, a para-church tool, its sole purpose to train and equip leaders in biblical Christianity and skills for ministry in their local churches. I am convinced that this international ministry which flies under the radar of most churches is revolutionizing what it means to be committed and accountable to Jesus Christ. It has created in me a hunger and thirst for scripture and boldness in faith that by comparison a half century of church membership only commanded.

Some suggestions for your list:
after school tutoring
school vacation lunch program for children living in poverty
youth mentoring
prison outreach
transportation solutions for those with age and physical disabilities
leading small groups at school, community, work
conflict resolution in marriages and church families
career mentoring

Fajita said...

JP,
Thanks, and feel free to add it to the list.

Lee, you sound like a "troublemaker" in all the right ways. I really like your ideas for "classes" and will add them to my list I am developing ofr our elders at my church.

David U, Thanks for the comments. And yes, I was excluding the terrific ministries people engage on their own.

Jettybetty, Good point. I think maybe a change initially will launch some ministires beyond that time because, it is a hard time to really do something. However, it is good for training and planning. I do think it need to be on Sunday AM because there is no other way to make people believe you really mean it. OK, maybe there are other ways, but if it happens on Sunday AM it is kind of hard to miss the point.

You all are fuel. More to come.

Dusty Chris said...

Preach it. Great post!

How about a class on developing and using spiritual gifts like healing, prophecy, etc. I attended a class like that and grew leaps and bounds in faith and trusting God.

David U said...

Ok, here's the deal........you need to write a book. End of story. Yea, it will upset lots of folks. So did turning the tables over in the temple.

Bottom line, we have been focused on US way way too long. We have made being "unique and distinct" an idol.
We have a saving good news that can't be contained in our four walls.

Be sure to communicate that you are talking about "corporate" ministry. At least I think that is the thrust of your observations. There are LOTS of people who are involved in individual ministries on a daily basis, such as being a parent, being a spouse, and being light and salt 50 or 60 hours in their professional lives. You are not trying to diminish those good works at all with your suggestions.

I think of God's words to the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel. The fellowship that I am currently a member of uses this as their mission statement. I think it is a wonderful balance of taking care of the flock, yet also equally telling others the good news. What a surprise......God has things in the right perspective!
Here are his instructions:
A) Bound up the injured
B) Bring back the strays
C) Search for the lost
D) Strenghten the weak

You can't improve on God's wisdom.

Thanks Chris!

jettybetty said...

I think your ideas are very good. Of course, some of the time there will be no need for "class" with your model and some of the time the ministry might not happen on Sunday. In other words, I thnk you might, at least in some cases be moving this time away from Sundays altogether. I don't think that would be bad at all.
I just don't think "Sunday School" is really working any more. I can't remember who started it or when, but I am certain it was not the apostle Paul. I think it probably worked great for years in a different cultural context.
I am not against group Bible study. Most of the time that is not what happens in "Bible Class." One man teaches the rest of us. We are spoon fed and learn wee little bits.
I am in a small group of ladies that meets for at least 2 hours on Monday nights. We commit to doing about 30 minutes of homework a day. I learn much in my private time, but I learn so much through these ladies. We pray for each other. We email what we learn during the week. We are truly involved in each other's lives. This works for me.
I do appreciate your thoughts! We could always do more ministry in the name of Jesus.
Betty

JP said...

Great commentary Chris, Enjoying your blog posts. Would you mind if I add it my blog list. Thanks