Rethinking Education in the Church Revisited

I posted a while ago on education in the church. At that time, I said I would address the questions that came up in the comments. I have yet to do that. Here is my attempt to do that adequately. I feel I will fail. Irish Mist gave a reply that in the original comments that is probably better than what will come here. I would love to hear more thoughts on how this would work or whether we should try to make it work.

Here is what you would find a little of if you followed that link:

Here's what I mean. In a group taught by one person there is a teacher. The teacher prepares a lesson. He studies. He prays. He searches out the Scriptures and seeks God's will for what he is supposed to teach. Then after struggling with it all week, he presents his findings in a discussion or lecture format to the class.

My dream was to have a group of people where everyone studied, prayed, searched out the Scriptures, and sought God's will for what they were to share the next week at church. Then when the church gathered together, everyone would just share from the heart rather than be presented a planned lesson. That never happened.

There were a few good replies back. I'm going to focus on answering the questions that Mr. Vitz brought up.

"How would you avoid groupthink? The kind that discourages creativity and individual responsibility?"

This whole method would focus on creativity and individual responsibility. People would be expected to have studied beforehand and educate themselves. They would come up with their own conclusions prior to hearing the thoughts of other members in the group. Groupthink would require everyone to have their views be filtered by the leader or by the group themself prior to giving them an option to come to their own conclusion alone. I envision groupthink as being more conducive to a setting where the information is given in the same meeting that a decision would need to be made. Nobody is allowed to take the thoughts home and ponder them. Groupthink would discourage challenging questions, while this method would encourage it. The group would be given information and be expected to come to a specified conclusion. Some of those conclusions would more than likely vary from one another. A discussion with previous personal Bible study would actually bring together a group of people who have already arrived at various conclusions.

I would actually argue that the one-man teacher format has a lot more in common with groupthink than a group of people who study on their own and get together to discuss.
I don't think the method of education I propose would encourage groupthink but individuals in the group thinking.

Wikipedia has a good posting on groupthink and a great section on ways to avoid it. It also has a link in that article on consensus decision-making, a process it considers the opposite of groupthink. It sounds awfully similar to the approach used in the Lansing churches to make decisions.

Eric Vitz wrote:

Further, God has called some of us to be teachers... Eph. 4:11-13, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

One's calling is not dictated by one's position.

In the American church we like to have permanency of one's calling at one location by slapping on a position. We do this with most every role in the church. In the case of a preacher, we will also give money to them to solidify the permancency even more. This gives them the position unchallenged with the deadly potential of them still having the position when the calling from God might have moved on. Hopefully, they are godly enough that when God calls them out of their position, they will be open to stepping down. God could even call a pastor to just serve in the church he was paid to minister at and have someone else take their place. Most situations don't even allow that to be an option. In our attempt to make our roles permanent, we open the door wide to the option of quenching the Spirit.

Also, the model we currently use means that one class for each person called to be a teacher. Why is that? Why can't it be a class with multiple people called to be teachers? Might it be more beneficial for a group being educated to hear two people called to be teachers interacting with one another?

So those who God has called to be teachers will still be teachers because that is their calling from God. I would assume that those called would be the ones who receive insight more often. They would be the ones who would shape what is going to be studied. But that doesn't mean that God only wants to funnel his teachings into the church through them. I believe he wants to do it through everyone, through the priesthood of believers. This method does not quench the calling of teachers. I propose that it actually creates an environment that makes teachers better educators.

Eric wrote:

There are Christians who are spiritual babies, shouldn't they be instructed in a "student/teacher" role? I keep thinking of my children (and perhaps this analogy is a stretch), but when my children are young, I want to instruct them on how to behave properly, etc. When they are older and more mature, and able to reason, I will allow leniency and input until eventually they will make decisions for themselves, research and formulate their own thoughts. But as infants, I make the choices and instruct.

I would actually want to expect the most of out of the spiritual baby. Teach them how to study the Scriptures in depth. Show them what commentaries are. Show them what a concordance is. Show them how to seek God's thoughts through prayer. Everyone in the group will know that they are a spiritual baby, so I'm sure they will take that into consideration when hearing his thoughts. However, most spiritual babies I know are more on fire for God and have an unquenchable thirst for the Scriptures.

We need to be careful to not place them into a leadership role. But I don't know if I would consider sharing their thoughts in a biblical discusssion an act of leadership.

I do believe that new Christians need special attention. It would be wise to disciple them by doing a one-on-one Bible study with them and involving them in how you lovingly serve those in your church and community. But I've never been in a one-on-one Bible study where one guy did all the talking. It is usually a mutual growing experience, especially when one of the people is lit up like new Christians usually are.

Eric continued:

Is there a difference spiritually? Should we allow spiritual infants to instruct in a group setting? Please understand, I'm not dissuading the asking of questions... my point is, to whom will questions be asked? If they are directed to a group, it seems the setting almost gives permission for individual interpretation. Who is responsible for saying, "No, that's inaccurate, the Bible states..." You might say, everyone is responsible for each others' acountability, but people are not all similar... I might know the truth but be too timid to speak up, or intimidated by someone's aggressive stance.

Despite whether we like it or not, everyone is already coming up with their individual interpretations of what we teach. However, now they just keep it secret and head on home. Using the discussion format would actually reveal to those gifted in teaching in the group where they are not communicating well. It would also show the teachers who they might need to meet with during the week and further discuss while over dinner or coffee. I strongly believe that those gifted and called to be teachers would still be viewed by the group as the ones with authority because that is given to them by God.

What we are discussing is how do we best educate, not how do we insure that only proper doctrine is spoken at all times. The best education will have people reveal the false doctrine that they hold in their hearts in order to have it be fixed. It will create an environment where the church can be of one mind. This will bring times of false doctrine being shared in the group, in which it would immediately and lovingly be countered by those who are more sound in their doctrine. And maybe what we consider false doctrine might actually be correct, and we, the teachers, would have to reexamine things. This is about creating an environment that encourages seeking from everyone involved and not just the teachers. We need to, as Muddy pointed out in her comment, make sure that it doesn't ever turn into a debate but into a loving discussion that transforms the whole group into more faithful disciples.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Watch out for the potholes.

And I'm sorry about the Martin Luther thing, but I don't want to have two blogspot accounts. Maybe I'll start an account at a different blogging site.