“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” – Soren Kierkgaard
This one hurt a little to read. It’s been floating around several blogs I follow lately so I went and found the most full quote I could find and there isn’t much I can say about it.
As I said yesterday, a 7th grade girl is reading through the bible in 90 days. The two excuses I hear most often are, I don’t have time and I don’t understand it. Well, if you wanted to make time, you could.
But the second excuse was harder for me to diffuse. It can’t be stated any more clearly than “We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly.” I’m not saying that Christian scholarship isn’t important. It is important to know our faith and to understand the theology of it. But that doesn’t excuse living a Christ-like life. It doesn’t excuse not showing Christ to others. It doesn’t excuse our materialistic tendencies when there are people living all around us who are in desperate need of basics. It doesn’t excuse our chosen inability to be selfless. It doesn’t excuse our desire to be comfortable. Instead, if we were to truly pour ourselves into understanding and applying even the basics taught in the bible, we would see that we are called to be Christ-like influences, selfless, generous, uncomfortable and sacrificial. Unfortunately (to too many), most of what we would learn about Christ wouldn’t make our churches bigger or lives better in society’s eyes but make them smaller and more radical… but who really wants that.
Earlier in the nine weeks, we went through 1 Corinthians and there were some ladies upset with how their roles were being portrayed so we spent some time off and on talking about what that meant and then in my last week, we talked through it in more detail.
We also wanted to take a look at what it means to have a passion for Christ and that to have a passion for Christ and living a Christ-like way means that we can’t live our lives learning more stuff while stuck with in the four walls of a building.
Here’s the first one of 4 presentations given. I believe many teens have no idea what it means to identify themselves in Christ as opposed to success, popularity, guys, girls, money, family… so we took a day to take a fairly basic look at what it means to identify ourselves in Christ.
One of the ideas that always intrigues me is the idea of planting seeds. How we can come into someone’s life, plant a little seed that he or she may or may not even realize and move back out of his or her life. It happens all the time for many of us. There’s one reason I think it’s important to think about it. At times, we get so frustrated that we can’t change that one person we seem to be pouring into. Let’s take a second and back up and look at our own lives. How many people have helped shape you into who you are today? Usually, there are at least 10-15 different people that we can honestly say have impacted our lives in meaningful ways. With many of these people, there’s an event that caused them to step in and be there for us. It may be a positive event like heading off to college or taking a big step in your faith. It may be something tragic, like a death or even heartbreak, loneliness or stress.
So who are they for you? Here’s my list of seed planters, which, when I give my faith/life journey, are incorporated in one way or another. I’m not sure I’ve even told them all that they’ve made the list. I know that the first two on the list know and although the third one didn’t know, I had an opportunity to express it at his funeral a few months ago. I suppose, it’s time to tell the others.
- Steve Fish – camp counselor in 1986 when I gave my life to Christ. (2nd grade)
- Mrs. Tippin – teacher who encouraged and supported me when no one else did (5th grade)
- Mr. Stinehelfer – teacher who modeled what it meant to be a manly man and truly care for people simultaneously. (6th grade)
- Kurt Steinke – counselor who modeled how youth ministry should be done. (early middle school)
- Lynn Thompson – my first youth pastor who was involved relationally with the youth. (high school)
- Matt Hallman – showed me what it means to be the real me regardless or anything else (2001)
- Dave Ramseyer – modeled how to love on teens and show them Christ in their world. (2000-2006)
- Tim Hallman – taught me that ministry takes passion and extreme faith and the results aren’t always as quick as we want but we have to fight through them for the sake of Christ. (from way back in 1996ish to the present.)
- Tim Smith – gave me a swift and continual verbal lashing to step up in my marriage (2009 to present)
- Nathan Hyde – work your butt off for your family while choosing sacrifice to keep faith and family first regardless of the material cost. (last part of 2010)
I think anyone could take a look at those 10 people and figure out what events go along with that while coming to a decent understanding of who I am and what I’m passionate about and called to. I’d challenge you to take some time to put one of these together. It doesn’t seem as awkward and personal to approach it this way but I think it gives a more complete picture of who I am in a few short sentences.
It’s been about a month since I’ve posted anything but I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I had a conversation with a few students this morning who were on break from college. We ended up talking about how hard it is to lead faith-filled lives outside of the structures they had put in place in their “safe zone”. I thought it was probably time to put some words down. I’m sure this will rub some people the wrong way which wasn’t intended but is an expected consequence.
We all have our safe zones. It’s that place we grow up in and feel secure in. The place where people don’t really ask us much that’s personal but we know that if we really have issues, we can come to them and they’ll help us bandage it up until the next time we need them. The place that we fill with Christian “things” like youth group, church, Campus Life, Young Life, book studies, retreats, camps, events… the list could go on. None of these things I’ve mentioned is bad. They all have their value in the faith journey of a teen. My issue is whether we should be fostering independent, dependent or interdependent faith.
I hear too often from students that head off to college that they have no idea what they are supposed to do in their faith. Many teens see their faith through the lens of their church, youth group or para-church ministry. When that piece is removed, the core of their faith is shake. What are they supposed to do? Who’s fault is it? What role does the church or para-church group play in this rampant failure during one of the most crucial and formative times in a person’s life?
Jesus’ ministry was all about preparing them for when he was gone. This should be the church’s mentality as well. A church shouldn’t have such control of one’s faith that once it’s removed, the person falls on their face and doesn’t know what to do. It also shouldn’t have anything to do with measuring success in our walk.
It may appear that I’m only blaming the institutions (the churches and para-churches) when I put just as much blame on the people who are apart of them. If someone truly wants something, they will do whatever it takes to get it. If a runner wants to go faster, they take as much time as they can, even outside their scheduled practices, to make sure they have their form down, that they are getting stronger and that they are eating right. Most likely, they have a coach or someone who they run with who they go to with questions and encouragement. The runner does the work. It’s not the coach’s job to make you run fast. It’s the coach’s job to make sure you have all the tools you need to be successful.
There are many other comparisons to running that I think are valuable to think question. Paul says several times, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” This can be seen in good coaches. Many coaches had successful careers in their respective specialties, the runners know that the coach knows what he/she is saying. Is this done in regards to faith? Many coaches won’t be successful if they say “Hey, meet here again next week and make sure you’ve at least looked at your runners manual and know what we’re going to talk about. We’ll play some games and then at the end, we’ll talk about running for a few minutes.” That team would be an utter failure. Instead, the coach expects that the runners will be, on their own time, taking steps to know how to do certain things and actually putting them into practice.
Jesus went to the people. Paul went to the people, The apostles went to the people. Jesus said this will be hard but if you’re willing to follow me then join me. Paul talked often about the beatings he endured because of his faith and then told the churches, in his letters, to imitate him. Most of the other apostles lived rough lives as well as they lived to imitate Christ as he commanded.
Christianity has to be lived out. We’ve had more than enough training. I currently teach at a Christian High School and many of the students there have had years of training yet very little interest in looking at faith through the lens of Christ, instead choosing to look at faith through the lens of their Christian education or church’s youth group.
Most, have read the books and talked about how to best run but are so obese in their own selfishness that we couldn’t run even if we wanted to. We know to stay loose and not tense up, to control our breathing, to stay focused ahead, to pace ourselves, to get in a rhythm, and lastly to enjoy the experience. We talk the talk but couldn’t hack it if it came down to it. We have to choose, on our own, to create opportunities to grow in our faith and these opportunities don’t happen once a week in a particular location.
Church – Our job is to disciple. It’s not to have the most friends or most fun. Our job is to train them so that if you were not around tomorrow, they wouldn’t skip a beat because they are confident in their abilities in Christ.
Teens – Your job is to do the work it takes to grow in Christ. The church is a great resource for you to accomplish this but you only need to stop looking at faith through the lens of your youth group and look through the lens of Christ. If your youth group or Campus Life/Young Life group was removed (like when you go to college) would you have any parts of your faith left? Are you so dependent on those groups for your faith that once you move on from them you have no idea what faith looks like?
Luckily, like a coach who has a lot of fun but doesn’t empower the runner to get better, you have the ability to find a spiritual coach, or leader, who will help get you there. It’s your job to get off your butt and make your faith real and pray and read the Word and hold your friends accountable. It’s our job to empower you to dig, discover and develop your faith along your faith journey.
So back to my initial question. Should we as adults in the church be fostering independent, dependent or interdependent faith?
Independence is freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others. In faith, we should be part of a community and part of a body that allows us to accountable to and responsible for different aspects in our faith. We should not be independent Christians
Dependence is a need for something so strong that it becomes necessary to have this substance to function properly. Unfortunately, this is where many teens fall. They are so dependent on their church or group that they don’t know what to do when it’s not there. Although this is great for the church because it keeps people coming back, it creates a destructive pattern for many teens when they go off to college or move to another town or even stop coming to church. They lose all they know and don’t know how to recover in their walk without going back to that one group or church because they’ve viewed Christ through that group or church. Too often, we only foster dependent faith because we need students to keep coming back to keep the energy high or to keep our numbers up or one of many other reasons.
Interdependence is a dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with others. No church can be everything to everyone but as faith goes, someone has to do the majority of the work and it shouldn’t be the church. Filling seats doesn’t make disciples. Teens who desire Christ and who have trained and are training, regardless of their level, should be equipped by the church or group so they don’t fall but can continue to move forward. The church is a supporting role in the lives of a Christ follower, not the main goal. A church’s resources should be reflected in the same way. It shouldn’t be a “come to us” dependent type of ministry but one that encourages living differently and getting out and being the church, not coming to it.
I just finished a session with David Oliver and my church and took away a few thoughts that I can’t yet wrap my head around. He went through a list of 31 ways Jesus approached discipleship. Here’s the list. I have a few thoughts but I have a lot more to process.
- He told them to follow him. (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:19)
- He accepted those who asked. (Matthew 27:57)
- He lived with them. (Matthew 26:17:20, Mark 3:20, John 21, 12)
- He withdrew with them to quiet places. (Mark 3:7)
- He introduced them to the supernatural. (Matthew 10:1, John 1:51)
- He equipped them for the supernatural. (Matthew 10:1)
- He sent them out. (Matthew 10:5)
- He gave them strategy and instruction. (Matthew 10:6-14)
- He had feedback and debriefing sessions. (Luke 10:17-20)
- He used the outdoors more than the indoors. (John 18:1, Matthew 8:18)
- He encouraged risk (Matthew 14:28-29)
- He told stories, irritated them, hid the truth, made it relevant, answered questions with questions, called them names (stupid, slow, Satan, children, ye of little faith) (Matthew 13:10-11, 13, 36; 16:5, 6, 13; 19:23-24; Mark 8:27; 9:28, 10:10; Luke 11:1-2, 18:1, 34; John :31-33, 6:60, 66-68, 12:16, 13:36, 16:17)
- He opened doors of opportunity. (Matthew 10:5, 14:16)
- He defended them. (Matthew 12:1-4, 15:2-4)
- He confronted and challenged them. (Matthew 15:15-17, 16:23, 20:23-24)
- He expected a price to be paid. (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:25-33)
- He was their backstop. (Matthew 17:16-17)
- He provided for them. (Matthew 17:25-27)
- He didn’t get religious. (Matthew 23:8-10)
- He commissioned them. (Matthew 28:19)
- He gave them privileged time. (Mark 9:10)
- He encouraged them with eternal rewards. (Mark 10:29-30)
- He shocked them. (Mark 11:14)
- He exposed the reality of their state (Mark 14:30)
- He baptized them or made sure they had been baptized (John 4:1)
- He delegated. (John 4:2, 6)
- He wasn’t afraid to lose them. (John 6:65-66)
- He loved them. (John 15:2-15)
- He worked with different group sizes. (Mark 14:33, Luke 6:13, 17, 9:28, 10:1; John 13:23; 1 Cor. 15:6)
- He exposed them to: travel, the sea, storms, the demonic, the supernatural, accusations, stress, hunger, inconvenience, fear, physical effort.
Although many of them are expected, some of them weren’t. On a daily basis, how do we apply these, especially the ones that are more uncomfortable?