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Women Teaching in Seminary, Oh Yes! (@KaitlinCurtice)

Women Teaching in Seminary, Oh Yes! (@KaitlinCurtice)

On Tuesday I noticed a tweet, after comments on the Desiring God blog regarding women teaching in seminary. The answer was, not surprisingly, no. The men who do ministry should be taught by men who model men leading the church.

Here’s the tweet:

I thought this such a good idea that I immediately chimed in with the names of two teachers, one in my undergraduate theology program and one in graduate school who had been important, even critical influences on my learning and development. I intended to blog immediately afterward and talk about why I list these two women, both of whom have gone on to glory, in particular. Unfortunately, life happened, and a couple of days have passed. I’m still going to do it.

Preliminary Thoughts

But first, ever the wordy one, let me write a note on my view of women in ministry. I’ve been accused of not really being egalitarian, not by other egalitarians, but by complementarians. The reason seems to be that I don’t say men and women are the same. Come to think of it, I pretty much don’t say men and men are the same. That is, we’re all different. What I do say is that this isn’t the issue. The issue is to see each person as one who is gifted by God, to recognize the gifts God has given, and to not merely allow, but to do everything to encourage that person to use those gifts.

How many women should be in church leadership? Precisely the number that God has gifted for that leadership. How many women should teach? Precisely the number that God has gifted to do that teaching. My main scriptural argument in favor of women in leadership is that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as the Spirit wills (Hebrews 2:4, among many others), and that when such gifts are recognized, quenching the gifts is quenching the Spirit. It is also not men who have the right to allow or not allow women in ministry. Their call is a call from God. Men have the choice of recognizing or not recognizing God’s call.

I do understand the other view and the scriptures on which it is based. I believe that it is a case of using advice produced for a particular time and place and making it universal. I believe making it universal hinders the advance of the kingdom.

Many

I have been taught by many women. Doubtless, complementarians would approve of having women as teachers in elementary and high school. I have to mention home school years with my mother and my older sister Betty Rae, both strong influences on my. Ethel Wood at Wildwood Rural School in northwest Georgia, who discovered I already knew how to type, and used my help in the school office. There I learned some skills that would come back to me later when I became a publisher. But this isn’t just about having women influence one’s life. It’s about training people for church leadership.

Theological Education

Lucille Knapp

Lucille Knapp taught first and second year Greek at Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University). I was privileged to take both these courses and to become friends. She was determined not just to teach us Greek but to help us use it to understand the Bible better and to help us grow in our spiritual lives in ways beyond just language.

I remember her particularly for gentle conversations urging me to consider unfamiliar ideas that hadn’t been part of my world before. She also connected the beauty of literature with my spiritual journey. When I graduated, I received a gift from her of a book of inspirational poetry, along with a note that urged me to remember that faith and theology were not just about the technicalities of biblical languages and biblical studies, which were my focus, but also about the experience of beauty and of God’s presence that was available through art and literature.

There were some people who thought she should shut up and just teach Greek. It was OK that she teach technicalities, but she should quit trying to influence others and shape their spirituality in any way. I’m glad she resisted those voices and continued to model spiritual leadership to her students.

(A bio and obituary.)

Leona Glidden Running

When I arrived at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, though my degree was an MA in Religion, concentrating in biblical and cognate languages offered by the graduate school, I almost immediately meet Dr. Running. Some of us thought she truly deserved her last name, as she was an active and vigorous person who didn’t let any grass grow under he feet. Ever. She didn’t believe in letting grass grow under our feet either.

One of my favorite memories of her was taking the final exam in Akkadian. I was the only student for that term for Akkadian, so the class had been somewhat informal. She handed me the final exam, which was a legal size sheet of paper filled on both sides with cuneiform text. She said, “Translate this. You have two hours.” Then she walked out of the room.

Now my guess is that I might have produced a good translation of a few lines in two hours. I don’t mean getting the gist, but getting a workable translation. The idea that I could produce a decent translation of that much text in two hours at the end of my first quarter was ludicrous.

So I struggled through, grabbing the first possible translation I could find and writing it down, knowing that I wouldn’t have time to recheck, and also knowing that I had to be making substantial errors. I managed half of the first page using that approach. At the end of two hours she was back, took the paper and made no comment. I got it back the next day with a grade — an A. So I asked her how this was possible. I was actually gratified by how few red marks there were in my translation, but I mean that with reference to my expectations. The page was still doing some bleeding! She said, “I wanted to see your first pass. I didn’t want you to have time to double check. I graded accordingly.” She had deducted only for things she thought I should have gotten without taking a second pass.

She also invited me to tutor Greek and Hebrew for the seminary students, guided me through what to charge so I could help pay my way. (I had a fellowship, but it didn’t cover all expenses.) When my Uncle, Don F. Neufeld, passed away, she was the one who recognized that I was grieving when I was still telling myself I could handle this. She made sure I made the trip to his funeral and took care of myself. She remained a friend after graduation.

She was, like Lucille Knapp, an example of leadership. She modeled that godly leadership for me.

(A bio and her obituary.)

Different Styles

Even though I didn’t select them for that reason, I like the fact that they exhibited two very different styles. I chose these two names because their influence on me was powerful.

I will still tell classes that while I value my knowledge of biblical languages highly, it was not learning the biblical languages that did the most for my hermeneutic. It was learning about people, learning how people react. Often elements of the tone of a Bible passage become much clearer when I think about the way people react to different things. Lucille Knapp is responsible for starting me on that way of thinking, and I’m eternally grateful.

Dr. Running, on the other hand, taught me that thoroughness is important, but so is diligence and vigorous pursuit of a goal. It isn’t just your last read that counts, but the way you attack a text in the first place. In coming to understand a text, it’s important not to get hung up or lost in the forest while carefully examining each tree. Of course, that has to be balanced by thoroughness, but she both modeled that for her students and expected it of them.

Conclusion

My life and work would be significantly less productive without these two women who taught, one in a theological school, and the other in a seminary. I thank God that their gifts were not suppressed, and that they were there for my benefit.

(Image credit: Openclipart.org. Modified by me.)

Teaching How to Experience God

Teaching How to Experience God

At my home church, Chumuckla Community Church, we’re going through the Experiencing God workbook. There will be 10 sermons, and then discussion groups. My wife Jody leads one right after church each Sunday, and I’m part of that. Doubtless someone will suggest that the book is somewhat more conservative than the theology I express on this blog. I’m delighted that this is the case. Later I’ll read something that’s more liberal and I’ll be delighted with that as well. I believe God is just as happy to talk to conservatives as to moderates and liberals.

The thing that bothers me about all teaching materials that deal with the experience of God’s presence, whether through listening to the Holy Spirit, expectation and exercising of spiritual gifts, or following God in any other way, is that it is often uncertain ground. In fact, I would suggest that if there isn’t an element of risk, you’re not really talking about experiencing God.

There are two basic approaches to trying to teach someone else to experience God. First, one can be prescriptive and define parameters. Second, one can be descriptive and open doors. In reality, of course, an individual’s approach will fall somewhere between, but there is usually a tendency one way or the other.

What I have found is that the most important thing any teacher can do regarding prayer, hearing from God, experiencing God, finding God’s will, or simply sensing God’s presence is ground clearing. Most people who want to hear from God or experience God aren’t simply looking for a formulaic approach they can follow. Rather, they’re usually facing barriers to the experience. Often these barriers are really good approaches they learned from someone else, but which do not work for them.

For example, my wife and I pray differently. Yes, we have times of prayer together, but when we’re each in our private time with God, we take a different approach. She likes music. I like music, but not when I’m praying. She’ll turn on the music and enjoy her time talking with (with, including listening) God. I start with scripture. I will select a passage and read without forcing the pace. I read very fast when that’s what I intend. In prayer time I read slowly and allow the words to direct me into communion. I will sometimes be directed to a different passage.

Jody’s prayer time would be really unfruitful if she used my method.  She’s likely to end up looking at scripture, but that will come as she hears from God in her prayer time. I, on the other hand, find music uplifting and energizing, and often use it to get myself charged for work on a day when I’m feeling slow. Right now I’m typing largely in silence. If I had gotten up unmotivated, I would likely have gone up to my office, turned on some music, and would have found myself getting ready to go.

It’s great to share your experiences. Just avoid telling someone, or leaving them with the impression, that your way is the one and only way to experience God. If you read the Bible stories, you’re going to find quite a variety: Abram just hears, as Abraham he later argues, Moses hears but might rather not at first, Gideon required a sign for each move, Balaam heard through a donkey (hard head there, I think), Jesus was in constant communion. There’s a valuable variety in scripture.

Experiencing God is great. Don’t be afraid of present experience. Beware of either letting someone place you in a straight-jacket, or of placing someone else in one. God’s way is past finding out. You and I haven’t gone that far!

(I’ve put some books I publish related to experiencing God into a collection on Aer.io. Check these out!)

 

Is It Greek Pedagogy, Learning Skills, or Something Else

Is It Greek Pedagogy, Learning Skills, or Something Else

These discussions seem to come up all the time about learning Greek, but the discussion also applies to Hebrew. How one can imagine it’s critically important to learn Greek if one is to preach or teach, but not so much to learn Hebrew, I don’t know. But the degree requirements of various colleges and seminaries reflect just such an attitude.

That said, I want to make some comments about learning and teaching, but more importantly about goals. Thomas Hudgins has written a good deal about this in a recent post, and he posted some material from Dave Black, which provides me a good link for that as well. Both make some excellent comments on pedagogy and what those of us who teach need from the students.

On the use of the word “we,” I want to note that my role as teacher is vastly different from Dave’s or Thomas’s. I tutored Greek as a student in graduate school, helping Master of Divinity students get ready for tests. And that was indeed what it was: Getting them ready for the test. None had patience for letting me help them comprehend the subject better. They wanted to make sure they had memorized enough answers to get by on the test. Since then I have occasionally offered classes in the local church or tutored individuals who were trying to learn. The key element here is that people came to these classes because they had a goal, and they pursued the goal.

And this is why I think we need to look at two other things. I used “learning skills” in the title, but what I really mean is the art and practice of being a student. There’s probably a perfectly good word for it, but short of suggesting you be a good talmid, I can’t bring it to mind. But beyond learning skills there’s motivation, and behind motivation there’s purpose, or perhaps mission.

That leads me back to graduate school and my graduate advisor, Dr. Leona Glidden Running. I was truly blessed to have Dr. Running as a teacher and advisor. I learned enormous amounts from her in classes in Syriac (which I audited), Akkadian, and Middle Egyptian. From the list of languages you can see that I had the motivation for learning languages. Thus I learned from good teachers and some whose pedagogy may have lacked a bit.

It was also Dr. Running who got me into tutoring and sent her students to me for help in both Greek and Hebrew. The problem with tutoring points me to what I think is a problem in ministerial education: Students going through language courses in order to check a box. We’re often fairly good at ditching traditions in Protestantism. Just look at the reformation! But folks, that was 500 years ago. What traditions have you ditched lately?

What I encountered were students who were studying Greek because it was required for the degree, some of whom had been told by ministerial advisers, mentors, and church leaders that the only reason they should learn Greek was to get their degree, and most of whom would serve churches that didn’t care what biblical languages they might have learned. Is it any wonder that they just wanted me to help them through the test? I can’t count the number of times I was called within hours of the test, or late on a Friday afternoon or even working into Saturday with desperate pleas for that help. At this time I was a Seventh-day Adventist and I took my Sabbath seriously. (I’ve recently commented that it’s one thing from my SDA background that I really miss.) But these ministerial students who were supposed to be preparing to shepherd people in that tradition, were quite ready to ditch their Sabbath rest to get past the test.

I know from reading what others have said that while the details may differ, the attitude is quite similar. Some seminaries have given up on the languages as a requirement. Often those seminaries are ones that have reduced the entire biblical studies requirement to a minimum. So study of biblical languages goes the way of Bible study, and it all happens without that much planning.

So speaking as someone who thinks biblical knowledge is critical, let me suggest that we need to reexamine this entire process. What is a Master of Divinity degree for? What are our goals? Within that, what are the goals for knowledge of the Bible? Of biblical languages? Once we know what we need—and want—then we need to ask how we get it. Forcing students to take one or two (or whatever number) of semesters of Greek and/or Hebrew doesn’t accomplish anyone’s ultimate goal, at least anyone I know of. Nobody actually hopes that the student will pay tuition, check off a box, and leave with no knowledge that he or she will use (except possibly the university finance department).

I don’t know about other biblical languages classes, but my teachers taught with the goal of having us learn to read the language. They knew they were only going to accomplish that in a few cases, but they still worked toward that goal. If the assumption of everyone else is that the student will not, in fact, learn the language, then we need to do something about that. That isn’t something that a Greek teacher can fix. He or she can try to motivate more students, to provide as much useful information as possible, but that all constitutes making the best of a bad situation.

Amongst the possibilities that should be considered are requirements for additional classes in history, cultures, people (sociology/psychology), linguistics, or other topics that helps a person understand a written text. Perhaps, in addition, one might include classes specifically in taking complex ideas and expressing them clearly and simply (to whatever extent possible). Then we can aim the biblical languages classes at people who do actually want to learn to use the material.

I have to put in my ritual dig at the whole educational system. I think that in the 21st century world the degree system is getting more and more out of date. Something more like the badges system that the Mozilla Foundation is sponsoring may be at least an early pointer toward a replacement. But that moves beyond this post …

In summary, in languages as in anything else, we need to keep our focus on the mission. That starts with knowing what the mission is.

And we don’t.

Underlying Principles for Christian Education and Discipleship

Underlying Principles for Christian Education and Discipleship

Chalk rubbed out on blackboard

… and with that pretentious title.

Actually, last night I talked on the Energion Tuesday Night Hangout (I’ll embed the video at the end as well) about Christian education and how one might go about choosing curriculum.

My sister, Betty Rae, asked me a question via e-mail this morning, and I thought it was so on point that I would post her comments and my response here. What am I actually up to at Energion Publications? For those who wonder, yes, my sister and I communicate like this quite a bit.

From her comments:

I have been trying to understand what is the purpose or goal you have in what you are doing.  I think I may have glimpsed something tonight.  Please tell me if I am right.

The early NT church consisted of home gatherings.  They had no center of worship, like the Jerusalem Temple.  So All that was Christian centered in these small groups.  Luther calls them “small companies;”  Ellen White, “little companies.”  So if there is a difficulty with the church at large, the church may be preserved in the “small study groups,” as you are calling them.  I saw in your presentation that you are encouraging the preservation of the individuality of individuals and groups.  Your presentation tonight holds great significance as I see it.  By leaving the groups free, even to making them free not to use your materials, room is left for the working of the Holy Spirit.  Hopefully, the small groups will follow that example, and also leave the individuals in their groups free.

The time will come, however, if there is religious oppression, that small groups will be suppressed; as an example, “The Conventicle Act” in England, for disobeying of which John Bunyan spent 12 years in prison.  During times of religious revival and opposition, believers were forced to meet in small groups, even outdoors in forests and mountains, for which they were severely punished if they were caught. John Wesley was forced, even to preach out of doors, when denied access to the churches.  The Advent Movement believers met in small groups after they were thrown out of the churches, coming together in camp meetings.

On an individual basis, churches in this country have already persecuted and tried to suppress small groups, calling them “cults.” (The devil will always mix his counterfeit in with the true.  Fear of being called a “cult” has discouraged the “small group.”)  One thing that drew disapproval was the groups’ using of materials “unauthorized” by the denomination, which you addressed tonight in your presentation.  Your work may be small, but who hath despised the day of small things!

Here’s my response:

One of my fundamental beliefs is that spiritual choices made through duress, emotional manipulation, or spinning data are of no positive benefit and are indeed destructive. Thomas Aquinas and I are not even playing on the same ball field on this one!

I carry this so far as to say that if I were helping to bring a Jew into Christian fellowship (no human “converts” anyone), I would want to make sure that person understood Judaism as well as Christianity to be sure he or she is making a choice that is as informed and as free as possible. Similarly, if a person is kept in the church because he or she was prevented from getting outside information, that brings no glory to God. While it may build up the church organization, the Kingdom of God is not built.

I could summarize this by saying that God’s kingdom cannot be built by deception, and trying to deny people information from another perspective is deception. That’s the reason leaders do it. The leadership is afraid that if we, the followers, have information other than what they approve, we might decide differently than we have.

This is often done for the best of motives. In the church, the idea is to prevent people who are less informed from being led astray. So information is restricted in pursuit of truth. But just because an approach is intended to accomplish something does not mean it will accomplish that. We often give credit to people for being well-intentioned, but the universe does not. The laws of physics don’t care about your intention. You may intend to fly when you jump off the cliff, but gravity (and the rocks below) does not say, “I’ll give him/her credit for having good intentions.” It’s just plain splat!

Similarly in politics we have a desire to limit information to what is accurate and unbiased. I agree that the internet provides a huge reservoir of material that ranges from misleading in presentation to flat out wrong. But those who would like to clean that up somehow, other than by countering false with true, are playing with fire. Whether it’s by controlling political spending or trying to narrowly define a “real” journalist, it’s going to head toward control, and control will lead to mass falsehood and delusion. The universe will not regard the supposedly truth-loving intentions of the censors.

So I do advocate freedom in ideas, and I follow that belief in the small (very small) world of my publishing business. I restrict what I publish not because I think the other stuff is bad, but simply to define a reasonable audience for me to try to address.

At the same time I personally advocate a program of education in churches, however carried out, that makes sure people are aware of the full range of ideas that are out there. Carrying this out will involve reading books that are written by people who disagree with and disapprove the church’s views as well as hopefully hearing directly from them. There’s nothing like hearing an idea from an advocate. I may be ever so careful to present my adversaries position, but hearing me is not as good as hearing them.

Those are the beliefs that underlie what I said about curriculum last night.

And for those who might need context, the actual presentation:

Confessional School vs. Freedom to Explore

Confessional School vs. Freedom to Explore

Peter Enns’ post, “If They Only Knew What I Thought” struck a chord with me and at the same time called up one of my concerns, or perhaps I should say areas of conflict.

I lived through this growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist and being educated in Seventh-day Adventist schools. In fact, I made a significant transition twice, once when I moved from schools in the self-supporting movement to those in mainstream adventism, and then out of the Seventh-day Adventist. Most evangelicals I’ve discussed this with have been quite supportive of my move. To many of them I moved from at least marginal heresy to a more orthodox form of Christianity.

But the same type of issues came up as I tried to decide what to do with my life after graduate school (at Andrews University, an SDA school), as I hear from evangelicals who go to secular schools. There were certain elements of my belief system that had changed, and others that I was still exploring. Could I be a Seventh-day Adventist? Could I be a Seventh-day Adventist teacher? I remember one professor saying to me during this period, “You don’t have to teach everything you know.” He was someone I respected, and still do. Yet I didn’t like his answer.

But what do you do when you not only see the boundaries of the permissible playing field looming, but think that perhaps you have crossed them? Is it right to continue to be a member of an organization you do not fully support? Is it right to teach for such an organization? Can you conceal what you actually believe in order to stay within the boundaries permitted?

We hear two sides of this conflict. The first is from people like me who have experienced changes in their understanding of scripture and doctrine, and feel the need of freedom to explore and to follow truth as they see it. We also feel the need to be honest with others. On the other side we have those institutional guardians who want to keep the faith pure. The former see the latter as barriers to truth, real spirituality, and scholarship. The latter view the former as persons who don’t fully care for the safety of the souls who gather in the pews.

I have a certain empathy with both sides. I recall a conversation with my uncle, Don F. Neufeld, associate editor at the time of the Review and Herald, of the SDA Bible Commentary, and editor of the SDA Bible Dictionary. Several of the issues I had (and still have) with SDA theology, and even with much evangelical theology, came up. In some cases he agreed with me against the common SDA position. In others, he didn’t. But he suggested to me a certain pastoral concern, a sensitivity to the people he served, and I was to serve. He told me how carefully he wrote at times, leaving the door open to exploration while not cutting the people off at the knees. Theology didn’t occur in a vacuum, according to him, it was something we did in service of God’s people.

While I couldn’t follow his advice at the time, and imagine I still would fail, I do understand what he’s talking about. A church community has to have some form of definition, and that definition will involve beliefs that are acceptable and ones that are not. If there are to be such institutions as confessional seminaries, schools operated by a religious community to support their needs and their people, there are going to be boundaries to the playing field.

If this were a matter of social clubs or of businesses, it would be easier. If you find yourself outside the boundaries of one, move to another. Such a solution can still work for someone who is raised as an Arminian, for example, and becomes Calvinist. I’ve known a few of those (and the reverse) and they usually just end up moving from one denomination to another to solve their problem. I think we would have little difficulty suggesting that someone who can no longer consider themselves Christian would do best to teach in a secular institution. Yes, this is not complete academic freedom. But it is also not deception. If the institution is operated by the Roman Catholic church, it is likely to have certain positions. If it’s Seventh-day Adventist it will have a different core perspective. (If it’s Methodist, of course, it will be whatever it turns out to be!)

My prayer would be that we set those boundaries as far out as we possibly can, to allow those who study and teach in church-related academic institutions to explore and challenge as much as possible. I think truth thrives in an atmosphere where it is challenged. Stupidity does not. For both those reasons challenge is good. But at the same time I would hope that all of us in our various churches would be prepared to gently help and encourage those who might need to find somewhere else to go.

I’ve managed to handle the “apostate” label before from those SDAs who see nothing but a rebellion against God that could get me out of the SDA church. I think most of them should be delighted that I left. I wouldn’t be making their lives easy from the inside. Perhaps a better approach would be to encourage someone to try their walk with God in another community. Don’t do this with the “left foot of fellowship.” Be welcoming, but at the same time don’t condemn the move to find someplace else. Encourage the exploration of other traditions.

There’s always going to be a tension between the need of the community to have cohesion and the need of scholars to explore. I believe that tension can be constructive rather than destructive.

(And as a final commercial, let me recommend a book I publish, Crossing the Street by Bob LaRochelle. Bob grew up Roman Catholic, was ordained a deacon, and is now a minister in the United Church of Christ. No, he’s not telling all Catholics to follow him. Rather, he’s encouraging us to look across to other faith traditions, learn, and feel the freedom to explore.)

The Problem with My Church’s Children’s Ministry

The Problem with My Church’s Children’s Ministry

My church has a good children’s ministry. I’m impressed every time I hear our children’s minister present a children’s moment during the church service, and every time I’ve encountered the children’s programs myself, including the couple of times I’ve been invited to speak.

The children are learning a great deal about Christianity, their church, the Bible, and how to live. The problems are challenging and sound. I’m likely to always push for more challenging material, but it’s possible that I would go overboard on that.

I was talking to a church leader a while back who told me that one of all the things going on in the church, the children’s ministry made him most hopeful. Despite the fact that my children are grown, and they’re taking my grandchildren to churches in other cities, I would agree.

So how can I have a problem with this exceptional ministry?

The problem I have isn’t with the program. In fact, I suspect that your church has the same problem as does mine. I’m wondering just where the needed backup is. No matter how good your church’s children’s program is, you can’t depend on other people (children’s ministers, teachers, pastors, and so forth) to nurture your child’s faith.

Just as the home situation is a better predictor of how a child will do at learning, so the home is where most spiritual formation takes place. The church can help, but it cannot replace the parents (or grandparents!) in preparing children for life.

My parents were quite willing to talk about their faith, though they were much more willing to live it. I know my parents prayed, not because they told me they did so, nor because they talked about praying, but because I saw and heard them doing it. I know they spent time studying the Bible, again not because they said so many pious things about the Bible, but because I saw them do it.

I have in my possession one Bible from each of my parents. One is a pocket sized King James Bible that belonged to my father. There isn’t a page in that Bible that isn’t packed with the notes my dad wrote as he read it year after year. It’s in doubtful shape now. But I don’t have to wonder just how much my father cared about his Bible.

I got the Hebrew Bible I carry from my mother. It’s the smaller edition of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. She wanted to stick with the larger edition because the print in this one is too small. But this Bible reminds me that not only did she study all her life, but that she eventually took the time to learn both Hebrew and Greek to use in her personal study.

It was not uncommon to hear the words of scripture from my parents’ lips. But even more importantly they tried to put those words into practice, from the various places the practiced medicine here in the United States, in Canada, in Mexico, and in South America. They gave of themselves.

And that is the true formula for seeing your children involved not just in church but in service throughout their lives. Let them see you do it. Let them know that your faith is important to you, not just because you send them to a Sunday School class, or because you attend a worship service, but because you have made it part of your life.

They’re going to remember a great deal more of what they see you model than they will of what you or someone else tells them. And if you make prayer and Bible study a part of your daily life you’ll also find that those wonderful folks who work in children’s ministry can accomplish much more than they can otherwise.

Don’t make your children’s faith an afterthought. Live your life of faith. Let them see something worth choosing and pursuing.

If We Were Doing Our Job in the Church

If We Were Doing Our Job in the Church

… then perhaps nobody could say this:

But if four years of college undo 18 years of parenting and religious affiliation, perhaps the faith community’s tenuous hold is the problem, not the particular place outside its bubble where that hold evaporates. Consider the believers we’ve seen in history. With all the persecution that Judaism and Christianity have survived over the centuries, an argument that sites America’s Top 310 Colleges as a first order adversary is hard to credit…. (Source: The Atlantic: Why College Students and Losing Their Religion)

I agree. We tend to blame society for the fact that our young people tend to leave the church around college age. I suspect we’d like to believe that because it means we’re not to blame. We’ve done our best, but it’s just the society. What can we do?

Well, we could try living our faith and inviting our kids to live it with us, rather than trying to work in just the right amount of indoctrination. We could try examining the kinds of ideas they’ll hear about in college, rather than repeating cliches and working our way through bland, unchallenging curriculum. (Can anyone say, “Bring your Bibles?”)

 

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Grow a Scriptural Faith – For Your Kids

Grow a Scriptural Faith – For Your Kids

The joint blog through the book Almost Christian by John Meunier and his daughter continues with Parents Matter Most. I must recommend this series again, because both participants are making excellent points and being quite open about spirituality. You can follow the links in the various posts.

A key takeaway line this time:

Neither grows a scriptural teen faith. Because the solution isn’t to barricade kids or to throw them to the sharks. It’s for the adults to grow a scriptural faith, too [emphasis mine].

Who knew? 🙂

I don’t think the problems with Christianity are hard to find. We have students who want to learn to understand their Bibles but don’t want to be bothered reading them during the week, people who want active prayer lives, provided they don’t have to pray, and parents who want their children to be in church, but who don’t want to model spirituality for them. I must confess to weakness in the latter two items as well, and on occasion in the first! This isn’t a rant in which I can point fingers.

I point again to Psalm 78, especially verses 5-8. The scriptural pattern is there. Why not follow it?

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Staying Alive in Seminary

Staying Alive in Seminary

For many, cemeteryseminary is a difficult spiritual experience. That’s why many refer to it as cemetery. Danny at Boston Bible Geeks is on his second post of a three parter (I think) regarding improving seminary.

I want to underline one of his points, which is his #1 in the second post of the series. It’s a student’s responsibility to keep up spiritual activities.

That was my own problem in seminary. I attended church, as I remember, about three times in seminary and then left seminary and the church very close to the same time. I can’t blame my seminary professors for the deterioration of my spirituality. At some point one has to take responsibility!

Seminary can be daunting, as can any educational or work experience, but if we give up the activities that keep our spiritual life going, then it can, indeed, be a cemetery.