Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Why the university holiday boost is not sustainable

I’m not a regular university student. I’m in my 30’s. I work full time. I’ve got two kids.

But, I’ve got the holidays of a university student.

Even with attending Summer school, I’ve had a month of study holidays. Without studying over the summer, I’d have been on holidays from mid November.

That’s a lot of time off...

Hopefully, young adults of faith put this time to good use.

They commit to spiritual disciples.
They get stuck into ministry opportunities.
They get their hands dirty.

Of course, the danger of this is that it does not last.

If you set up your young adults for a spiritual boost over the holidays then they’ll find that this opportunity soon dries up.

Employment only gives you 4 weeks of holidays.
Kids never give you time off.
Adulting is full time.

So, while it is useful to encourage those with idle time to commit to injecting energy into their faith, a more productive - at least long term - practice would be to encourage and resource young people to engage with their faith in times when they are not free. For, this is the life which awaits them in the future...

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bi-cultural ministry questions

Having worked in the most inclusive and multicultural denomination in Australia for over a decade, I was reminded of some of the significant questions I’d ask those from other cultures, when it comes to their faith and church life, while hearing the testimony of someone last week.

Being an Anglo male in leadership, my experience of church was often quite different to others from other cultures.

In order to both understand them, their history and their faith more, I’d ask the following...

Do you engage with God in your native language? If so, when? 
If you own and can read the bible in your native language, do you find it different compared to English?
Do you engage with worship or sermons differently depending what language they are delivered in?
How is your church different because of your culture?
How do you engage with church leadership? 
What do you value in the faith of your parents?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How to tap into the spiritual ZPD

There’s an educational philosophy called the Zone of Proximinal Development. In short, it refers to a level of learning a student is capable of based on their own abilities. Ideally, a teacher aims to reach a student within their ZPD in order for the information to not be too easy or too far over their head. With assistance, experience and practice, the student should have their ZPD expended over the course of a subject.

Is there such a thing as a spiritual ZPD?

At a theoretical level, there must be. Everyone will have a self-assessed level that they can understand and engage with God. Someone’s theological understanding, biblical competence and experience will all effect the way they can comprehend the bible, what happens within a church service and during their personal spiritual disciplines.

General relegation would suggest that no one is approaching God at a zero-point ZPD. Through creation and the conscious, no one is without the natural testimony of God.

But, if a spiritual ZPD does exist, then how should a minister utilise it?

Anyone who has lead a mixed group, such as a youth ministry with both unbelievers and church families - especially a minister’s child - knows the challenge of a varied ZPD.

A similar challenge exists within the church service which will have deeply committed believers and those struggling in or exploring the faith.

I believe the best way to tap into an individuals ZPD is to delve into application. If you make your teachings practical, as they should be nonetheless, then you’re more likely to hit the ZPD.

For an individual knows, with the help of their conscience and the Holy Spirit - which will add a layer of complexity - how they can apply the gospel message. They know who they need to forgive. Where they need to exercise compassion. Or which sin they need to wrestle with. 

This is true no matter how developed your ZPD is.

But, everything is complicated because no believer is alone. 

The bible says that the Spirit of God will help them. It will reveal truths in the bible. It will convict them. It will give them peace from outside of themselves.

So, no believer is solely responsible for their growth. Your ZPD is upheld by the Holy Spirit. It is a gift from God and, unlike what you’re taught in school, your spiritual ZPD is enlarged as much by faithfulness, commitment and sanctification, as it is by comprehension and the ability to recall. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

If you teach the bible, you get the topics

I once knew a guy who, for a term of his high school scripture lessons, all he would do is read a chapter of the bible and them discuss it with the class.

It was... dangerous.

Usually, scripture lessons are driven by themes and topics.
These are easy.

For, I can think of plenty of landmines which people would try to avoid in the bible.

Women in the church.

But the bible, particularly the epistles, won't allow this.

They are filled with topics we try to skirt around.
And, this was the rationale this scripture teacher had.

When it come to the topics which matter, they will come up organically and he would be prepared to speak about what the chapter was about. 
He believed that you shouldn't cherry-pick your topics.

This makes people think that you're hiding something.
This makes for underdeveloped theology.
This makes for a weakened spiritual discipline of bible reading and engagement.

So, he deals with the tough topics.
And, while it's dangerous, it's also one of the most mature ways to treat the bible and one of the most faithful examples to set.