Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Discipleship in a post-literate culture? Part 1

In looking at this issue I want to start with a couple of important disclaimers.

Firstly, what follows are observations based on personal experience. With this in mind I am perfectly willing to admit they may be peculiar to my mission context - however, as they say, "if the cap fits ..."- if you find something that resonates or rings bells with your context/experience, then please, jump in with some observations of your own.

Secondly, this whole topic is one that I see as being increasingly relevent for the church as a whole as we move into the 21st century and away from the ideals of modernism that were once entrenched in our ecclesiology and culture but which are now quickly falling into irrelevance (again, my opinion - feel free to disagree). Having said this, I want to make it clear that what I am really interested in is the method or practice of discipleship - it is the appraoch the church takes in making and growing disciples that I am calling into question not neccessarily the message we are seeking to impart through the process of discipleship.

I suggested this topic as it is one that I find both interesting and infuriating. Interesting because it represents a challenge I face almost daily and infuriating because of the apparent lack of clarity or open discussion about post-literate, post-christendom, post-modern discipleship in practice in the real world. And the overall lack of available resources dealing with this topic.

I'll start off with a table reproduced by Michael Frost in his article, "Preaching in a post-literate age" as I think it helps shed light on the contrast between the "old" and the "new" in our present culture.

Things may be provedThings may be probed
Uses science to remove mysteryWelcomes & celebrates mystery
Truth by reasoning (cognitive)Truth by experiencing (emotional)
Go from truth to lifeGo from life to truth
Deals in facts, dogma, conceptsDeals in interpretations, opinions
Uses exact languageUses approximate language
Communicates via technical termsCommunicates via myths, symbols
Sees universe as closed, predictableSees universe open, unpredictable
Values independenceValues Interdependence
Individualised dreamsCorporate dreams
World view determined by what we seeWhat we see is determined by our world view
Objectivity possible: Observer & observed are separatedEveryone is subjective: Observer is part of observation
Beliefs held dogmaticallyBeliefs are open for discussion
Life viewed analyticallyLife viewed holistically
Concerned with what things are (Truth is absolute)Concerned with how things relate (Truth is relative)
There is one way to liveThere are many ways to live

The modern, evangelical church, at least in part because of a shift in culture, has become increasingly irrelevant as a vehicle of the gospel because, while it has been good at the business of theory, it hasn't been great at linking this with practice.

While it may be a generalisation, I think it is an accurate one; the practice of the faith in the majority of modern, evangelical/pentecostal churches can be equated with attending a service on a Sunday, attending an "academic" bible study on a weeknight (or day) and engaging in various church-run social activities at other different times.

You could also throw into this no small amount of pressure put on individuals within churches to "evangelise" their friends by bringing them along to church run or sponsored events where they will have an opportunity to hear a special, evangelistic message.

Now what I have been talking about is the practice of faith within the Christian church. It is the focus or point of the practice of the faith that I believe holds the key in understanding discipleship in the post-literate context and the increasing ineffectualism (did they ever really work?) of the "old" ways of practicising the faith.

I guess none of this is really new. We've debated it for ages, been accused of focussing on negatives, church bashing, or throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But ...

... I think, if they are completely honest with themselves, most churches know:

1) That their efforts are not as effective in bringing new individuals into the (catholic) church community as they once were and in many cases, actual community engagement beyond the four walls of the church is non-existent.

2) That transferance is the real cause of growth in the churches whose numbers are increasing.

3) That it seems to be increasingly difficult to get any substantial percentage of those attending on a Sunday involved in a more meaningful way, than simply attending the Sunday service or church run social events.

4) That the gulf between the church and community outside its wall's is big - even if this is only acknowledged in the frustration felt from not seeing "new" growth (as opposed to transfered growth).

This is post is starting to get long. I'm going to split it in two (or more bits if I need to). So now I've kinda nutted through the problem (in a very general way), in part 2, I'll try and focus more on my experience with specifics.

This is a synchroblog - If you would like to join in, please let me know and I will link to it and get you to link to other participants.

Synchrobloggers so far -
Glenn Hager - Re-dreaming the Dream
Mmmm, That's Good Coffee

1 comment:

glenn said...

I posted today. Thanks for the invitation.