Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Discipleship - The House of Ideas or The Life of the Mentor

I have been reading a lot lately about the "emergent discussion". Brian McLaren in his response to Andy Crouch's Christianity Today article, the emergent mystique, says the following:

Crouch: From Polanyi and MacIntyre, he concludes that the emerging church must be "monastic"—centered on training disciples who practice, rather than just believe, the faith.

McLaren: My friend Diana Butler-Bass, working in a parallel track in the “mainline” world, is going in a similar direction, emphasizing the importance of spiritual and missional practice. See The Practicing Congregation.

Hello!!! Such a simple point needs to be digested for the next twenty years. I am sure many many pastors are saying such things BUT I find them hard to find. I personally have never seen discipleship and teaching any other way than teaching the praxis of the faith. This path which my Christianity wlaked down has been a lonely road. My role I see is one of seperating out the meat from the bones and presenting the emergent discussion in a way that us evangelicals can digest.

The monastic aspect of the emergent discussion is one that I whole-heartedly support but which needs a on-going and thorough discussion. Christianity needs a reformation not of our "house of ideas" but of our practice. Over the next series of posts, I am going to contrast two educational models in a way that i hope is helpful to the dialogue. This first point is going to look at the "object of study".

The Academy and the Street
The western educational system, for the most part (and I realizing this is changing) , is modeled after the Greek academy. The place of study in the academy is within the four walls of the classroom. The reason that the academy can take place within the four walls of a classroom is because the academic model is based on a belief that the purest form of knowledge is knowledge that is ascertained by the mind alone. Therefore, the place of learning is essentially within the mind. Of course, this generalization is an overstatement, but this principle generally holds for the type of learning that takes place in both the academy and the church. Learning in seminaries and pulpits is about thinking and manipulating ideas. The place of learning is the mind and the object of study is the thoughts of the teacher or writer. The method is to construct a house of ideas that is internally consistent. The one with the most consistent system of ideas is the smart guy,...but does this method of knowing actually teach Christianity?..Of course not.

For effective Christian discipleship, the object of study is not the ideas of the teacher but the life of the teacher. The disciples spent all their waking hours observing Jesus. The role of the disciple is to learn to imitate the character of the teacher and become like him in practice. To be able to think like Jesus is certainly helpful, but it is not the goal of discipleship. If the method of education in the church was to learn to practice life like the teacher/pastor as opposed to learn to dispense information like the teacher/pastor, then the job description of the pastor would completely change.

In this mentoring model, how I treat my children now becomes the object of study. The place where I teach now becomes the home. How I practice evangelism now becomes the object of study, and the place of learning becomes the street.

This change in educational method from the academy to the home and the street is necessary if we are to regain a distinctive moral beauty in the church which is salt and light to the world.
The mantra of my emerging methodology for discipleship is "observation, imitation and discussion". If I am to live this model, my job description as a pastor will completely change. The object of study to those I am walking with becomes my life, and the place of learning becomes the places that I live my life, the home and the street.
My aim, and I believe the aim of the emergent discussion, is to radically change our understanding of what it means to practice our faith. One such area needing to be discussed is our understanding of how we learn to enter this liberating practice of Christianity. In order to radically change our practice, we must first attempt to model our learning after the methods of the Master.

God Bless,

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