Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Perils of the Pulpit

David de Bruyn’s blog series giving pastoral advice to various types of stagnant Christians continues this week with a post on the importance of church attendance. I have not agreed with every position he takes throughout these letters, but major kudos to David for bringing these issues to our attention and provoking thought and conversation with his posts.

Of course attending church is very important indeed. No difficulties with that.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

I won’t soon forget his face.

He was perhaps thirty or forty years of age, well-dressed and smart looking, a typical man of his era. He was just one among the thousands who had come to this week-long Christian conference.

Every morning, the speakers had been dealing with the reasons for faith, their goal being to show people how firm and rational the foundation for our beliefs really is. Naturally, in this day and age, they had found it necessary to refer often to the recent screeds of people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris, the self-appointed “brights” of the atheist world, the so-called “Four Horsemen” of the secular apocalypse; though, really, all four are theological lightweights, since contempt for one’s subject matter tends to make one rather imprecise. Anyway, they make their way by preaching to the atheistic converted, reciting to them the same old canards that have been circulating since Darwin, Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. (Truly there is no new thing under the sun.)

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Who’s Minding the Store?

I’m seeing more and more of those “self-checkout” units at the local stores. They always creep me out a bit. There just seems to be something really weird about the idea of walking up to a mechanical box, shuffling around my own transaction, and then leaving, going out of a store without passing by a person.

I feel as if I owe somebody some kind of explanation, like “Here’s my purchase, and here’s my money, and they match up; so don’t call the cops.” And then this person is supposed to give me the nod, like, “Okay, you’re alright this time; but when you come back, we’ll need to see each other again.”

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Inbox: The Problem Begins at the Platform

In response to Tom’s post Five Lessons We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson, Russell writes:

“In the local church context, based on 40+ years of listening to sermons/messages, I would say there are a rare few who can hold people’s attention for more than 15 minutes. They present material in a boring and unorganized fashion. They are unaware of the learning and comprehension level of their audience. They are very very detached in their application to where people live their daily lives. Shame on them for being such poor communicators of God’s truth. Shame on us for propping up a system which perpetuates bad messages.”

Now, we might bridle at that — especially those of us who have a favorite speaker. We might say, “That’s not fair, Russell; I know Mr. X, and he’s really profitable and interesting: I could listen to him forever.”

Maybe. But how many Mr. X’s are there? Be honest now.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

If you tell me, I forget.
If you show me, I remember.
If you involve me, I understand.

— Old Teaching Axiom

In his recent post on the subject of platform preaching, Tom writes, “For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that one-man platform ministry is the way to go, not because I believe it to be the most scriptural model, but because it’s what we’re all doing and I see little hope for wholesale change.”

He just doesn’t see any reasonable prospect that we can be induced to reevaluate our conventional church behaviors to the extent of questioning the value of platform ministry.

Well, Tom and I usually agree. But not on everything. Not on this.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Feeding the Sheep

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

When the Lord Jesus restored Peter, he gave him a job: “Feed my sheep.” He repeated his instructions twice, each time with a slightly different verb, and in one instance with a slightly different object.

Assuming we think there is an example in this anecdote for Christians to follow, the net effect is to make the men who shepherd the people of God in our present age responsible for the entire flock — young and old, of whatever type — and to charge them with the care of their spiritual diet, as well as their guidance and direction.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: The State of Theology

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

David B. was kind enough to forward us this link to a recent survey by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research about what Americans believe about God, Jesus Christ, sin and eternity.

Tom: Apparently they are doing this every couple of years now. Having regular new data sets to browse can be useful in noting trends of one sort or another. We discussed the LifeWay 2016 survey in this space, if I recall correctly … yes, I do. That was the one where, based on the frequency of their heretical answers, my fellow writer Immanuel Can was inspired to refer to some of the respondents as not so much Christian as “ ‘Christian-flavored’, like a really, really bad kind of tofu.”

How’s the tofu this year, IC?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Louder Than Words

“Words, words, words,” says Hamlet.

He’s not enthused. And rightly so. Sometimes there are just too many words.

The Bible says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.” It’s talking about prayer, of course, but the point carries more generally: even the smartest of us is pretty limited in knowledge. The Lord can use as many words as he wants, and every one of them will be right; but when we human beings talk too much, we make mistakes. Sometimes, we even roll right into sin.

So we’re encouraged to be careful, talk only about what we know, use our words precisely, and not to multiply them without due attention to what we’re really doing. After all, teachers receive a more serious condemnation if they do a bad job.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Rethinking Sunday School

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: I have a confession for you, IC. I was a terrible kid in Sunday School. I made everybody’s lives miserable, from the guy tasked with leading the singing to my individual Sunday School teachers. I really didn’t like it much.

The odd thing is that I had nothing against church particularly, or the Bible. I even believed it was true. But I was a total cut-up.

How about you?

Immanuel Can: Yep. Dead with boredom, and ready to make trouble.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 2]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Continuing a discussion arising out of Immanuel Can’s recent and well-received post “Who’s Minding the Store?

Elders have the job of feeding the flock. IC’s post suggested that not only the Holy Spirit’s leading but a certain amount of human organization, ingenuity and especially careful observation are necessary in effectively carrying out that task. I pointed out some of the things that make that tougher than it looks, and we considered three of them last week. And here we are.

Tom: Since you mention individual gifts, IC, I pointed out in our discussion last Friday that our gifts tend to predispose us to see the world a certain way.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 1]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In his recent post “Who’s Minding the Store?” Immanuel Can considered the responsibility of elders in deciding what should be taught in the local church they care for. His point was that elders need to really know their congregations in order to provide them with the spiritual food they need. Somebody needs to “mind the store”, so to speak.

Tom: I wanted to get into this a bit further with you, IC, and it seems to me this is a better place to do it than a back-and-forth in the comments to the original post.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Preaching or Peddling?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Mike Leake has a few words to say here about stewardship of the word of God. Leake says that preachers and teachers tend to approach their responsibilities one of two ways. In Scenario 1, like the servant in the parable of the talents. In Scenario 2, like Paul instructed Timothy, guarding “the good deposit”.

Tom: One approach attempts to improve on what has been given while the other simply attempts to retain what has been given.

What do you think of his analysis, and how do you approach the word of God when you’re responsible to share it with others, IC?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Who’s Minding the Store?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Louder Than Words

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The State of Theology

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Burden of the Lord

In the years leading up to the Babylonian captivity, God spoke many times through his prophets to the people of Judah and their religious leaders. However, the message he sent them was not to their taste. The leadership, especially the false prophets and priests, were disinclined to accept any correction of their way of life, but were understandably reluctant to be seen to defy God in any obvious way.

Then they discovered a rather ingenious solution. Instead of prefacing their own declarations with “Thus says the Lord” or some other claim to God’s final authority over the message they brought to the people, they began instead to speak of something they called the “burden of the Lord”. This “burden”, they claimed, came to them in dreams, sufficiently foggy and amorphous that it was necessary for them to explain it in their own words rather than God’s.

This approach enabled them to claim sufficient heavenly authority to maintain their prestige and position without obliging them to say anything difficult or truthful that might offend their audience. It was the perfect compromise.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Rule Upon Rule, Line Upon Line

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Immanuel Can, we’ve both done a little Bible teaching over the years in local churches. I have been noticing a trend toward verse-by-verse Bible teaching over, say, topical messages, and I’m wondering if you’re encountering the same thing.

Immanuel Can: It varies. I do think I’ve seen a mild trend that way, but not exclusively so. What makes this interesting to you, Tom?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Making Do

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So a friend and I are out for lunch, and as usual we’re discussing the church. A recurring theme: the New Testament ideal vs. street-level reality. A plethora of genuine difficulties may arise when we seek to apply what was done in the first century in our modern church settings.

An example: shepherds and teachers. You need to have them or the flock simply doesn’t get guarded, guided, fed or cared for the way it should. But in smaller local gatherings, sometimes you just … don’t. For one reason or another, right now they’re not there.

That’s one kind of weakness. Definitely a problem.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Let the Others Weigh

Not too long ago, a grand old Bible teacher I remember fondly from my youth posted a rare thought on Facebook about teaching scripture on the Web. His concern: that the haphazard slinging of tangentially Bible-related opinion is a potential threat to the unity of local churches. Some form of oversight by seasoned teachers of the word of God is preferable. He cited Paul’s command to the Corinthian church: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” in support of the principle.

Now, he’s not wrong here, and he’s not the first to note the problem.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Inbox: The Problem Begins at the Platform

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Five Lessons We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson

In an excellent recent post entitled “Masculinity Without Permission”, Doug Wilson happened to name-check Jordan Peterson as someone who, despite not being a Christian, is actually more biblical on the subject of masculinity than many evangelical elders.

I won’t belabor that point; it’s Doug’s, and he said it better than I can. But I will go him one better: I think there are at least five things I’ve learned from Peterson that it would benefit my fellow evangelicals to consider seriously.

So here goes.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Semi-Random Musings (2)

There’s often quite a difference between what we assume went on in a Bible story and what probably really happened.

My mental pictures of Bible characters and their environment tend to auto-default to the flannelgraph cutouts of my Sunday School years. These presumably came from the fertile minds of whoever was drafted to produce the art for the curriculum. But such sacred two-dimensional imaginings are not necessarily the first thing a ten-year old challenges or even notices. They are what they are, and they stuck with me.

This was long before Veggie Tales, so thankfully I don’t carry around the mental image of the prophet Daniel as played by Larry the Cucumber. Not much, anyway.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Rethinking Sunday School

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception can be fantasyland
My former boss used to love to say “Perception is reality”. All he meant by it, I think, is that it’s important in business to consider how our actions appear to others. That’s certainly a relevant concern when your income depends on your ability to convince people to buy stuff, but it’s not quite what the person who coined the phrase intended to convey.

The line has been attributed to eighties political strategist Lee Atwater. I dislike it thoroughly: communication is tough enough without deliberately eroding the meaning of words. Our general failure to apply our critical faculties to aphorisms like Atwater’s simply accelerates the disintegration of language into meaningless babble.

I’m not kidding. Hey, we’re talking about the nature of reality here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nobody Says ‘Meh’

The dromedary is singularly unimpressed.
One handy-dandy Oxford definition:
Expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm:
‘meh, I’m not impressed so far’

Tayyab Babar wants to help people speak persuasively — a highly useful skill whatever your subject. Theoretically, if you follow Tayyab’s rules, fewer people will say “meh” when you’ve finished expressing yourself.

For public speakers, this would be a good thing.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Preaching or Peddling?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 2]

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Minding the Store [Part 1]

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Golden Calves and Sacred Cows

Just another divine bovine ...
Anyone who has carefully read the New Testament through more than once will concede that most modern evangelical church meetings bear little resemblance to the gatherings described in the letters of the apostle Paul.

That alone doesn’t necessarily make today’s churches “wrong”: both local autonomy and format flexibility are built into the New Testament church. Thus some of today’s churches may be most accurately described in the words of a local city building inspector who referred to a nearby triplex as “legal non-conforming”.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Who’s Minding the Store?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Author of Confusion

Paul Mizzi is an evangelical pastor on the largely-Catholic island of Malta. His essays on various aspects of the Christian faith may be found on the website Truth for Today.

Malta got a visit from the apostle Paul in the first century that included a number of miracles of healing (and undoubtedly the preaching of the gospel to go with them). But despite the fact that Malta has had apostolic testimony for two thousand years, the structure and function of their evangelical churches today seems to have more in common with that of North American denominational Protestantism than with that of the church of the New Testament.

In Paul Mizzi’s church the distinction between clergy and laity is very well defined.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Quote of the Day (9)

Youth work is a juggling act.

I haven’t done it in a few years. The cultural distance between me and the current generation is significant enough that I can’t imagine the sort of effort required to properly bridge it, and the opportunity is not there in any case. Others are doing the job, and God bless ’em.

But I’ve put in the better part of a decade leading youth groups and/or teaching Sunday School and I well remember the juggling act that comes from trying to please everyone with an opinion about what you’re doing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Bible Study Troll

Where there is open participation, there will be trolls.

I don’t mean the fairy tale creatures that live under bridges. “Troll” is slang for someone inclined to stir up Internet drama by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages. The disruption may be very calculated or completely unintentional: Howard Fosdick says, “Motivations differ but the results are the same”.

Troll-types didn’t originate with the Web and they don’t restrict themselves to it. Trolls have been around as long as there have been opportunities to get attention. The Internet Troll has a genial cousin I call the “Bible Study Troll”. He’s not malicious and he doesn’t mean to be inflammatory, but his contributions are just as likely to lead to drama and discord as those of his better-known relative.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

The most current version of this post is available here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trained or Gifted?

A few posts back I promised to try to answer the question How can we recognize teaching gift?

In one sense the title of this post represents a false dichotomy: why not be both trained AND gifted? In fact, many gifted men are trained, whether in Bible schools, seminaries or less commonly through private mentoring, or discipling. Still, there is a distinction to be made between what can be supplied by a seminary (good study habits, recognition of logical fallacies, general principles of homiletics, familiarity with Greek and Hebrew, etc.) and what can only be supplied by the Holy Spirit of God.

It is the latter set of qualities I’d like to consider.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Decently and in Order [Part 2]

The New Testament is not laid out like a textbook or reference manual.

If we’re honest, many of the conclusions generally drawn about first century church order and the way the early Christians conducted themselves when they met together are based on a verse or two here and there and the occasional example. Some things are very clear; others are mainly inference and supposition.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Rule Upon Rule, Line Upon Line

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Inbox: A New Year’s Challenge to Elders Everywhere

My partner in crime Immanuel Can is, like many other masked men, currently vacationing in Parts Unknown.

But in the interest of giving you all a break from another day of … well … me, I offer IC’s rather thought provoking list from last week which may have gone unremarked in the comments section of a previous post.

I consider this not so much a general rebuke to elders as what seems to me to be a fairly useful checklist. IC and I both know elders who do the job wonderfully.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

The most recent version of this post is available here.