More on That

Being a minster does not mean being a pastor.  It might, but it doesn’t have to be nor does it imply that.  God calls us to be disciples and to participate in the advancement of His kingdom.  So, what does it mean to be a part of the teaching ministry of the Church?  The answer to that is rooted in the way we as Christians live our lives because every Christian has a ministry.

Saying something versus doing something is very different.  It’s easy for Christians to forget that speaking about Christ will mean virtually nothing to a non-believer if we are not living out the faith we speak so enthusiastically about.  It’s what people see, and it may be the closet we every come to ministering to certain people.  We forget that the world is watching us.  Every interaction we have with someone counts.  We’re either drawing people in with our faith or pushing people away.  This truth is hard to accept because it means that one could know the Bible well, have knowledge of basic theology, and be philosophically knowledgeable, but if that person is living in a way that doesn’t glorify God, then their faith has little worth.  The way we live our lives is the biggest testimony to our faith. We must resurrect this notion that we are free to act out God’s will.  When it comes to Kingdom principles, are we doing God’s bidding in our community?

A key factor of the teaching ministry is authenticity. Over time Christianity has become a word and not a radical way of life where one seeks Christ with ever fiber of their being.  We are not living to our true potential if we’re living as lukewarm Christians.  That’s a fake way of life. The Roman government used to fear Christians.  They had to kill them.  Something’s gone wrong, hasn’t it?  The world isn’t impressed with Christians right now.  We need to be working in a way that our daily witness just draws people into the Kingdom of God.  Maybe it’s that we feel inadequate.  There’s no way we could bring people to Christ.  It’s too big a task.  There’s no way we could live out our faith.  That’s too scary when the world around us is walking in the opposite direction of the Lord.

The teaching ministry demands our full participation.  The very word “Christian” used to be a derogatory term meaning “little Christs” that was given to people that were living their life in a way that could be compared to Jesus.  We’re terrified of giving our whole being to Christ.  I think we feel inadequate and have forgotten that God fights our battles for us.  We’re also consumers and we don’t live out what we consume (sermons, the Bible, etc.).  We’ve become ingrown.  We can be with other Christians but not non-Christians.  We’ve forgotten that Jesus identified with all kinds of people and welcomed them.  And, we can’t forget that it’s not us that are doing the teaching; it’s the Holy Spirit.  But, He does need us to be well equipped to do that, which is why lukewarm Christianity isn’t good for anything.  Being part of the teaching ministry means giving up our life.  So, do our lives validate the story of the Bible?  We certainly need to be asking this.

Being a Christ follower is about owning our faith and learning to give it away.  It seems easy to write scholarly essays on Jesus and the genesis of Christianity, and to a certain degree it is, but it’s equally easy to do this at the expense of relationship.  For example, it would be wrong for me to study every book of the Bible, know scripture front and back, and fail to live in the vibrancy of the Spirit in my normal day-to-day life.  In this case, I’m missing the point of scripture, which is, without doubt, to love the people around you and act on that.  What I mean when I say, “Act” is essentially to be apart of the teaching ministry of Christ because what is Christianity without educational ministry?  It is selfish, and that pushes people away from the faith.

Expanding on this notion that all Christians are teachers, it’s our duty as the children of God to speak about our faith vibrantly and give it the breath of life it deserves. I’ve heard countless people say,  “I’m not a Christian because I need fun in my life.”  Sure, we live on this side of the fall and imperfect human beings lead the teaching ministry, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we as Christians have failed big time at showing to non-Christians that living out our faith is awesome and life giving.  It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not the catalyst for a monotonous lifestyle. For some reason that’s the idea people have on Christianity.  Christians are looked down upon as if they are choosing to live a hollow life.  This is why we can no longer shirk sharing our lives, full-on and in love through Jesus Christ.  We can’t forget that the reality of faith is in lifestyle just as it was in the Old Testament with the first century church.

I think the tendency for Christians is to leave the faith at the door when really it should be taken out into the world and into the work places so that the spirit of God can flow out of us and into others.  It’s easy for us to create our own culture and stay in a Christian bubble, but in that case we’re missing out on the teaching ministry that would have such an impact on those outside of our bubble.  Saying what we believe to a lost generation is a vital part of the ministry of the Church.  The first century church is a great example of how Christians should live out their faith.  Their lives were a testimony to their faith.  They were witnessing to the community with a dynamic explosive faith, and so much so that they were killed for it.  Where did we go wrong?  We shoot our own in the back.  Pastors leave the Church and we persecute them when we’ve got skeletons of our own in our closet.  We need to be able to talk about our own faith with people who don’t believe without judging them and becoming our own God.  One of the primary reasons people leave church is because they wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity that they experience from the people around them when, really, Christianity should be inclusivity at its best.

God’s body is useless if we’re not engaging the community and all its parts.  God works with community.  All the Old Testament is God working with all of Israel.  God is mediated to us through other people.  That’s why we need community.  That’s how God accesses us. We’re also made to mediate God to others through community.  The body of Christ does not function properly unless it has all of its prerequisite parts.  It’s a deep theological truth found in scripture.  One can’t just be hanging out with a bunch of elbows.  God needs the body to access the world.  Maybe we think it’d be much easier for us to live a “Christian” life in solitude.  But, in that case, we’d be missing the point of “the Christian life” if we lived in solitude.  We should beware of the person that constantly wants to be alone, and beware of the person that constantly wants to be in community.  God uses both the silence of solitude and the symphony of community to mediate His spirit to us.  Thus, it’s important to have both of these elements in order for the teaching ministry to be most authentic and effective.

It’s troubling, then, when you consider that the disunity of the church seems to be increasing exponentially.  If we look at the last five hundred years since the Protestant Reformation, there’s a deep irony in that the whole Protestant movement promised that if we all went by scripture and if scripture was seen as obviously clear in its meaning, then we would all believe what good bible-believing Christians should believe.  But, as it turns out, Protestantism has been enormously divisive.  A cynic might say that the Protestant answer to conflict is to start another church.  But, if the people are the church, are we being careful to stick with the community just as God does?  It is surely a bad thing if the church continues to break up and be more and more divisive.  I’m always haunted by John 17 where Jesus prays that his followers will be one just as He and the Father are one, the reason being so that the world will know that God sent Him.  That means when we present to the world a divided church we undercut the testimony that God has indeed sent Christ. I don’t know what the answer is short of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, but the continuation of the dividing of the church is only a great sadness because it suggests that Christ is divided and the Holy Spirit is of a double mind, and that we can not all gather at Christ’s table to share one body by sharing one bread and one cup.

Operating from this knowledge, how do we as Christians most effectively minister to others?  A very important part of that answer is psychology. What’s very interesting is that psychology is not merely secular.  Consider this: everyone is made differently.  This simple fact means that each of us have our own needs and will respond differently as students do to the same teacher.  Thus, the teaching and learning dynamic has to consider the psychological connection.

The big question that needs to be asked before we minister to anyone is “How do we engage the learner?”  This means that we need to be thinking more educationally when we have conversations.  Are we having respect for the person and their human situation? Developmental psychology is a great thing to study because it helps us to be aware of people’s needs.  According to Maslov, we enter in to different developmental stages as we age where our “hierarchy of needs” matures.  Each person has his or her own life situation.  This is why it’s important that we value where they are, who they are, and what they’re doing.  Take young people, for example.  It’s important to know if the kids you’re dealing with have experienced love and affection at home.  What are their parents like?  Our love for Jesus comes largely from the way we experience our parents.  We need to make sure children are loved.  This is why one of the keys to effectively ministering to kids is to love them.

It’s important that we think about these things, and philosophically so.  Why do we do what we do in the teaching ministry?  Where have we fallen short and where are we doing well?  What is it we’re trying to accomplish?  How do we come to believe?  Why do we believe what we believe?  How do we take people from the questions of belief to the imperative of “how do we believe?”  Philosophy, theology, and psychology come together with methodology.  We have the task to tell people about Jesus and teach the Bible, so it’s our duty to know how to do that well and know what we’re talking about.  Philosophy can be so theoretical.  We can talk philosophically without being practical.  In the same way, we can merely talk about the faith and fail completely at engaging the people we’re ministering to.

I think a major problem we have is that we care way too much about our image.  We need to constantly be reminding ourselves that it’s not about us.  There’s certainly a time and place for sermons and telling everyone you’re a Christian, but most of the time we’re called to show God to the world through our actions and deeds.  In the same way, each day we have the choice to serve the Creator or the created.  I think the teaching ministry of the church needs to be rooted in remembering it’s about serving the former, about loving God and loving others because with this comes the reconciliation of the world.

The Multifaceted Bible

The Bible is read in a number of different ways around the globe.  I do believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about reading the Bible.  Different virtues are revealed when we approach the Bible from various ways.  However, I see there to be a good deal of merit to reading the Bible as scripture, and I think if one begins there and is careful to keep that in mind while reading it, the Bible can be interpreted in terms of its other qualities, such as literature, canon, and sacrament.

Too often the Bible is read out of context, and it harms the Church as a whole.  It’s important to remember that scripture is a grand narrative.  It defeats the purpose of scripture to merely read the New Testament and skip the metaphorical landscape of the Old Testament.  In the same way, it doesn’t do much good to read scripture out of the context of the church.  The church as the body of Christ is the proper setting for reading the Bible as Scripture.  Jesus spoke on the significance of community, and how we make up the body of Christ.  It’s very important to read the Bible in community because that’s how God is mediated to us.  God works with community, with all the prerequisite parts of His body. For example, we experience the power of the Holy Spirit when we pray for each other.  It’s troubling, then, when you realize that the disunity of the church has been increasing exponentially.  If we look at the last five hundred years since the Protestant Reformation, there’s a deep irony in that the whole Protestant movement promised that if we all went by scripture and if scripture was seen as obviously clear in its meaning, then we would believe what good bible-believing Christians should believe, but, as it turns out, Protestantism has been enormously divisive.  What we’re doing when we present to the world a divided church is contradicting the testimony that God did indeed send Christ. I don’t know what the answer is short of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, but the continuation of the dividing of the church is tragic because it suggests that Christ is divided and the Holy Spirit is of a double mind and that we cannot all gather at Christ’s table to share one body by sharing one bread and one cup.

Moving past the tragedy of reading the Bible as something besides scripture, if we did read it as such, it would free us up to see the Bible’s largely metaphorical significance in the grand scheme of the narrative.  Whether or not each event in the canon actually happened or not goes beyond the point, which is, “What of God’s character is revealed in the story?” This question leads to the bigger question, “Who is God?” And from that we arrive at “And who is He to me?”  If the Bible is read as literature, many detailed nuances are revealed to the reader just as Hamlet will elicit larger significance if the reader approached the book as it was meant to be read (as literature).  Of course there are other elements to the Bible that could be sought after that are very much valid and I’m sure hold much spiritual importance, such as reading the Bible as sacrament and canon, but without recognizing the Bible as scripture and understanding that it is replete with metaphorical language that lead to a greater understanding of the text, the reader will miss the point.

PyschwithTheo

All Christians have a ministry.  (I had to re-read this sentence about ten times before I understood it enough to move on.)  I’ve learned that teaching is all about living one’s life.  It’s easy to forget that we are teaching instruments when we walk out our front door.  Every single person we come in contact with will be watching us.  I don’t say this as a warning, but more to call attention to the opportunity we have as Christians to minister to the world.  Considering this, how do we as Christians most effectively minister to others?  A very important part of that answer is this: psychology. (Period.)

To be honest, I’ve never paired psychology with discipleship before.  I’ve definitely been interested in psychology.  I want to be a counselor, so you kind of assume that I am interested in the mechanics of human brain function.  But, what’s very interesting and awesome is that psychology is not merely secular.  Consider this: everyone is made differently.  That’s probably not ground breaking information for you, but this simple fact means that each of us have our own needs and will respond differently as students to the same teacher.  Thus, the teaching and learning dynamic has to consider the psychological connection.

The big question that needs to be asked before we minister to anyone is “How do we engage the learner?”  This means that we need to be thinking more educationally when we have conversations.  Are we having respect for the person and their human situation? Developmental psychology is a great thing to study because it helps us be aware of people’s needs.  According to Maslov, we enter in to differently developmental stages as we age where our “hierarchy of needs” changes.  Each person has his or her own life situation.  This is why it’s important that we value where they are, who they are, and what they’re doing.  Take young people, for example.  It’s important to know if the kids you’re dealing with have experienced love and affection at home.  What are their parents like?  Our love for Jesus comes largely from the way we experience our parents.  We need to make sure children are loved.  This is why one of the keys to effectively ministering to kids is to love them.

It’s important that we think philosophically.  Why do we do what we do in the teaching ministry?  Where have we fallen short and where are we doing well?  What is it we’re trying to accomplish?  How do we come to believe?  Why do we believe what we believe?  How do we take people from the questions of belief to the imperative of “how do we believe?”  Philosophy, theology, and psychology come together with methodology.  We have the task to tell people about Jesus and teach the Bible, so it’s our duty to know how to do that well and know what the hell we’re talking about.  Philosophy can be so theoretical.  We can talk philosophically without being practical.  In the same way, we can talk about the faith to others and please ourselves thinking that we did a great job, but, in reality, fail completely at engaging the people we’re ministering to.