Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Why are so many people struggling with their identity?

The article in gospel coalition which questions whether we are making disciples or deists raises some interesting discussion points.

  1. Should Christians be happy?
  2. What reasons for salvation did we communicate to those being saved?
  3. After Alpha ( a good start point, but has it’s own theological glaring gaps) how do we prioritise teaching good biblical theology?
  4. Is our sermonising ‘self-help’ with a biblical flavour, or is it good theology with life application?
  5. Do we expect our thinking to be revolutionised when we come to Christ, or harmonised with our secular humanism?

The ages old precept of read your bible, pray every day is often replaced with journaling [or blogging] and counselling, and our midweek meetings tend to retain a semi-pastoral emphasis rather than seeking to engage with how we understand then apply theological understanding, and tragically few people know how to make alive what they are reading sufficient to share with each other, encouraging and building one another up.   The concept that we are followers of Christ together, having being radically transformed by the gospel, and the regenerating work of the spirit seems to be partially if not totally lost despite our theological reformed (calvinist) bias.

Could it be that the degree to which the common person (one that doesn’t hold a church office) is encouraged to educate themselves theologically has been reducing to the extent that anyone who enquires for themselves is now considered the oddball?   Moreover, I’ve lost count of the number of leaders who suggest their expectation of those in our pastoral care won’t read the bible for themselves, let alone understand what it says. Leadership may then become focussed at compensating for this loss of theological understanding and bible reading, rather than encouraging and working with the spirit to lead, teach and guide.  It’s almost as if for many we’ve understood our ‘service’ culture to be ‘serve me’ rather than serve each other and that we need to be spoon-fed from our leaders rather than running with them to hunt down and consume the meat.  It is wondrously surprising that despite the plethora of translations into understandable language, and the number of copies in the average Christian (sic) home the book is largely unread week to week.  If we truly believe that God is revealed through it’s pages it behooves us to dedicate our time and energy to knowing what it says and living it out.  Proverbs 4 tells us to get wisdom and understanding, and that surely is a call to educate ourselves.. not leave it to others.

But where can the common man go to aid their understanding?

  • Though Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology is a reasonably easy read, most of my contemporaries ironically use it as a reference book to dip in and out of, rather than to systematically read, so that perhaps is not the best starting point. 
  • Discipleship groups then? these could help, except it reinforces a leader, follower mentality which removes ownership of study from the learner – but we all have to start somewhere, so perhaps this has some merit.  Perhaps our midweek groups should do more than ‘unpick’ the Sunday sermon? 
  • What about visiting each others homes daily to encourage one another, to pray, break bread and encourage one another while giving praise and thanks to God? – perhaps that seems too religious?

By far the biggest challenge here is not one about what the church does and doesn’t do to grow followers of Christ – though we need to look at what and how we do that - it is fundamentally that we have miscommunicated what a follower of Christ looks like, and take few steps to correct it.  This lack of clear identity, ‘what a Christian looks like’ allows all manner of alternative outlooks to find a foothold and delay our move to biblical thinking and attempting to change it after birthing people poorly is hard work, problematic and should be unnecessary if we do it right the first time!

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