Thursday, June 25, 2009

Traditional Pedagogy in peril?

Traditional Pedagogy in peril?

this is from Scot McKnight's blog today, regarding the future of universities as learning styles and the knowledge base are changing.

"Meanwhile on campus, there is fundamental challenge to the foundational modus operandi of the University -- the model of pedagogy. Specifically, there is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn.

The old-style lecture, with the professor standing at the podium in front of a large group of students, is still a fixture of university life on many campuses. It's a model that is teacher-focused, one-way, one-size-fits-all and the student is isolated in the learning process. Yet the students, who have grown up in an interactive digital world, learn differently. Schooled on Google and Wikipedia, they want to inquire, not rely on the professor for a detailed roadmap. They want an animated conversation, not a lecture. They want an interactive education, not a broadcast one that might have been perfectly fine for the Industrial Age, or even for boomers. These students are making new demands of universities, and if the universities try to ignore them, they will do so at their peril."


to me, the "The old-style lecture" and traditional pedagogy sound a little like a Protestant church service. In our weekly God-parties, I found it true that non-churched secular young people want "animated conversation, not a lecture."

so ... as we look at books like the "Great Emergence" and such themes as the collapse of the Evangelical church and possibly even the "great falling away" as young people abandon church services, what implications does the above information have for the task of reproducing the faith in a new generation?

PS: if you want to contribute some books to the summer reading list (annotated bibliography) please send them to me with a paragraph or two describing the book at


just joe said...

so ... here is what I did. This is an interesting tangle of digital interactions and bifurcating pathways …(of course leading to spending money on more books that I won’t have time to read).

I was reading Scot McKnight's article about "Traditional Pedagogy in Peril?" and I saw a link that said "read responses" and clicked it. It took me to two short essays by university professors who disagreed with the futurist alarm expressed by Don Tapscott at Edge: The Third Culture.

One was a Harvard professor who talked about innovative ways that Harvard is introducing more participation and collaboration in the class room, and the other was by James J. O’Donnell , a cultural historian and classicist who is also Provost of Georgetown University. I particularly liked what he had to say, and so I clicked on a link with his name, it took me to his CV page and a mention of several books he has written. So I clicked on the link to his most recent book, Augustine: A New Biography, and guess what? It took me to … where I found that I could buy a copy of his biography of Agustine for only $4.19 … so guess what? I clicked again, and the book was on its way to my house even as I type this.

That was 4 clicks that took me from Scot McKnight to James O’Donnel’s new book on Augustine for only $4 bucks. Amazing brave new world we live in …

Augustine : A New Biography.

One more click took me to a good review by C. Coffman.
(2005) which gave an overview of O’Donnell’s book but also informed me that the best classic biography of Augustine was written in 1962 by Peter Brown ($8.95 used on Amazon), Augustine of Hippo: A Biography and several other biographies of Tolstoy and C. S. Lewis written by a A.N. Wilson, and available on Amazon for $4.74 and $3.73 respectively. A further search under A.N. Wilson revealed a book called “Paul: The Mind of the Apostle” for a whopping $0.74! that is less than the price of a coke. How can you not buy books at those prices? Less than a bag of potato chips…(I need a bigger house for my books).

6 clicks in 20 minutes = 5 recommended biographies (with reviews) for less than $20. It sure beats walking around Barnes & Noble for 2 hours and spending $100, or worse, not even finding these classic books (if anyone from B&N reads this, just send me money and I will shut up).

I just love the digital age! Assimilate me! Resistance is futile. we are the borg.


John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John M. said...

I deal with this issue every day with my 7th graders. They sit in desks facing the front. Each period lasts 50 minutes. The curriculum is geared to transferring content from my notes/brain to theirs. I work hard to make it more interactive, and to add video/audio clips, concrete visual illustrations, etc., but at the end of the year when I ask them how I can improve the class, they tell me, "make it more interactive and hands on". The whole system works directly against doing that...

John M. said...

Joseph, have you thought how you'll handle this issue (the broadcast style vs. the interactive model)when you're teaching an undergrad history course of 100 students? Or will you be able to go straight to teaching graduate level classes. The smaller size and the assumption of a knowledge base definitely makes interaction more feasible.

How can we harness current technology to make teaching/learning more interactive?

Travis Morris assigns articles or links to visit during class, and requires each student to post comments on a message board that everyone in the class, including him can read. He also takes questions and responds to comments "live" during class.

Laurel Long said...

A-m-a-z-i-n-g, point and click, Grace,
How sweet the sound: point and click, point and click,
That saved an intellectual wretch like me!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I once was lost in ignorance, but now I am found online buying up all the information I can,
I was completely blind without this knowledge,
But now I see clearly ...
It only cost $10.00's or less, and several days of reading.
Joseph, this is posted in fun. Please don't take offense. I just couldn't resist.
I really like the sound of some of your discoveries.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, folks--checking back after 11 days on the road. I'm alive and well, and looking at the dozen "summer reading" books I ordered from amazon, sitting in a nice neat pile (see prior post and conversation!)

Colleges and universities may be almost as hide-bound as churches, so it's no surprise that they're having parallel conversations to those taking place in the church.

I think the overarching goal for "education" needs to be forming persons to live in love and wisdom. This will of course include acquiring knowledge, skills, information, competencies, etc., but is not limited to these acqusitions. So Joseph, if you grant this point, at least for discussion's sake, here's my question: did the 4 clicks move you into greater love and wisdom? I realize that this is the kind of question that can't be answered on the quick, but still: you clearly gained some information from the 4 clicks, but how different is your ending place from your starting place?

just joe said...

I gained no wisdom from the 6 clicks (not 4). Although, in the extra hour and a half and with the $80 saved by NOT going to Barnes&Nobles, I took Debbie out last night to a Brazilian Samba place with some of my friends. I think I might have gained a little wisdom and love with that saved time and money. But if not, I certainly had fun with the woman I love...
Plus, who knows? When the books arrive I might gain a little wisdom or love from one of the biographies of either Augustine, Toltoy or C. S. Lewis ... might being the operative word.

How about your 11 days of vacation and travels? Can you share with us the wisdom and love gained? ;)

Brian Emmet said...

I wasn't being argumentative. I think the pedagogical proposal I posed is worth taking into account: if the highest purpose of "education" is to shape people in lives of love and wisdom, then that's the way to evaluate changes in pedagogy. Informational technologies are terrific at speedy distribution of information, but that is not the same as growth in love and wisdom.

My eleven days away? Growth in love and wisdom? You gotta be kidding--performing the wedding of two dear friends? Meeting and interacting with their families? Spending time with our daughter and son-in-law, walking through the new home they'll buy this month, going to church with them? Taking in the beauty of the Rockies?

Yes, you should point out that these opportunities were greatly facilitated by technology. But the technology was servant to something greater, and it's that "something greater" and whether/how technology helps or hinders us in getting there. I don't think it's a slam-dunk question, and appreciate it being posed to us for discussion.

just joe said...

you seem to think that the point of this is about technology ... but its not. Its about worldview, and about ways of interacting and learning.

The lecture-style pedagogy of one teacher to 40 students (or more likely in the University, 140 or 240) is just as much a product of industrial technology and the invention of the printing press as interactive learning styles are of digital media.

In fact, if you take a careful look at Jesus-style pedagogy, it resembles the interactive, story-telling, participatory approach much more than the modern monologue Protestant approach (who do men say that I am?; who do you say that I am?)

Bottom-line, our university is in trouble financially and tried to cut out the entire Religion department because it was not making money. Universities will change to adapt to the business model and to adapt to online degree programs like Capella and University of Phoenix, because if they don't, they will run out of money.

Sooner or later churches will also have to adapt because of the changing business model. People like Mike Tomko, Billy Long, Jim Matthais, John Meadows, me and others would say that the business model of full-time church-based ministry has already changed.

Brian Emmet said...

Uh, unless I misread your comments, you mentioned how "clicking" got you to several good outcomes... and I thought that some of the sources you mentioned discussed how classrooms can use IT to increase collaboration and discussion.

My main point was and is that before we can intelligently discuss whether or not "traditional pedagogy" is in peril, we have to ask what "pedagogy" is for, and what makes it good or bad or useless. To discuss the current crisis in pedagogy without referencing IT seems to me to be... several bits short of a byte? But IT does not have to be the focus of this discussion...

How can "teachers" best assist "students" in acquiring wisdom? Jesus was more "interactive" than the typical university professor, but I don't think there was confusion about who the Teacher was... and when there was, I think the Teacher clarified things pretty promptly, even when the "students" were looking for a different "teaching/learning paradigm". Pedagogy inevitably touches on issues of epistemology and authority. There is currently great confusion as to the first term, and active hatred, some of it justified, for the second... which doesn't bode well for pedagogy, regardless of who's doing it or how it's done.

But I stand ready to be corrected!

just joe said...

I should have known better than to tangle with you over "pedagogy" ... I forgot that you have been a headmaster.

John M. said...

Good discussion Brian and Joseph. I hope some others enter it and give their thoughts.

Regarding pedagogy... I think the best learning of information and the acquisition (impartation) of love and wisdom happens one-on-one -- teacher to disciple. The wise teacher will also bring others into the circle creating the band of disciples (i.e. Jesus and the twelve).

The problem with that model is that no one can afford it. So, economics really do govern pedagogy on the most obvious level -- teacher/pupil ratio.

My observation after 13 years of teaching seventh graders is that they had a really short attention span when I started, and today it is much shorter. With 50 minute periods, and 20-26 students per class, it becomes ever more difficult to keep them all pointed in the same direction. Thankfully, my skills of "class room control" have improved over the years, but I'm pretty much just keeping pace with the shortening attention spans.

My classroom experience both as teacher and student is that the students remember the teacher long after they can recall much of what they were "taught". Students catch who you are as a teacher, and impartation occurs, even when that is not immediately apparent.

So, if the teacher is wise and loving and growing in those qualities they will be demonstrated in the classroom and to individual students. The students will observe those qualities in action and they, in turn will grow in them.

The method is not nearly as important as the messenger. As the messenger, I am continually asking God for insight and creativity in my methods. I need to use methods that will be "culturally appropriate" and age appropriate, (without compromising biblical truth and reality) or not much learning will take place.

just joe said...

Ok, I defer the pedagogy argument to my esteemed colleagues, Brian and John, who certainly more practical, “hands-on” experience with pedagogy than I do.

However, I still feel that some strategic and innovative thought must be given to how to reproduce the faith among an increasingly secular generation. This is from Associated Press on Yahoo news:

Study finds widening generation gap in US

PS: don't forget to send me your reading list with a paragraph describing each book if you want it to be included in the annotated bibliography

Robert said...

Jesus certainly used one to one instructions that were pointed...Nicodemus. He also used group interactives to reveal truth and engage spiritual formation. We he asked.."Who do men say that I am" caused each person to offer personal answers, but the truth of Peter's confession was a dynamic group "aha moment."

Rhetorical method was also used to provoke corporate interactives that proved to be an atmosphere of revelation.

I do agree that the current cultural climate is more geared to shared encounter...but not to the exclusion of the importance of one to one as John has indicated. Group interactives often produce the need for deeply personal engagement...face to face...heart to heart. Some folks need to marinade in the corporate context until they are prepared to say what must "I" do to be saved.

just joe said...

I'm talking too much on here, as I often do, but I have to say that I agree with you Robert. Our 'god-party' is a great group encounter, with high levels of participation -- but is not sufficient alone. Carlos and I (and sometimes Brian D.)are having regular one-on-one encounters some of the key young adults – mostly at their initiative. That’s where the real transformative discipleship happens. The group encounter is more like throwing out a wide net.

One of the guys was sleeping on our couch this morning when we woke up (god-party last night). He and I are also starting to have good one-on-one conversations at a deeper personal level.

There is also a place for ‘teaching the multitudes’ as Jesus occasionally did. However, I think the church at large has been imbalanced, with heavy emphasis on public preaching and scripting and much-much less on the small group interaction and even less on the one-to-one. Along these lines Willow Creek recently acknowledge their weakness in transformative discipleship.

I think this is one area where covenant folks have done exceptionally well and have stayed ahead of the curve with our emphases on one-to-one relationships and interactive small groups. We don't dare ever lose that under the pressure to compete with bigger and more numerically sucessful 'seeker' type churches.

Brian Emmet said...

So I think this conversation is actually about pedagogy in Christian communities? Things are changing in the university world, as Joseph's first comments indicated--these changes are driven in part by technology and people's familiarity with it, and partly by a resistance to lecture-style teaching/learning. Much of that conversation pertains to the church, and will be especially magnified and significant in larger, "seeker-sensitive," consumer-oriented churches. Should the much smaller, less noticed, and less noticeable kinds of communities that we're part of seek to keep up, or plow in another direction? I think we've all pretty much abandoned overhead projectors in worship, yes?

John is correct that the teacher is the key person. If you think about the "teachers" (not restricted to school or academic settings) that have most influenced/affected you, I bet you'll find that they don't all fit into one neat package/form. We have benefited from the tutleage of the strict, high-demand disciplinarian, the free-spirited co-learner, the exciting, effervescent innovator, the duller but nevertheless unignorable "plodder." Technology will NEVER provide the answers to this discussion, but it may play an important role as a resource... but it's not until we're clear about "a resource to what end?" that we'll escape becoming enslaved by our tools.

Laurel Long said...

Could we consider that the contrast in perspectives discussed here is one of class? We are all middle class and have been mass educated by the middle class, pedagogical system and not by the private and personal tutelage of upper and aristocratic classes.
Personally, my intellectual capacity was formed and developed by professors who took an interest in me outside the classroom. They challenged me and gave me projects that would affirm their assessment of my potential for intellectual growth. The personal attention motivated me to excel far beyond the ordinary expectations of regular classroom work.
I think there is something in all of us that longs for private instruction and training which validates us as humans and learners, no matter what the subject; whether we are being taught the most intricate aspects of science, math, etc., or if we are the most disenfranchised being exploited for the cause of insurrection.
I am reminded of the old proverb;
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
My comments may be too philosophical for our purposes but they are my contribution for now.

John M. said...

Joseph, I wasn't trying to counter your comments in my post. I think what you're saying is very important. That's why I said that the teacher needs to use every cultural and age appropriate tool that he/she can find.

Brain, the lecture method is dear to most in our age group because that's our comfort zone, and that's the learning style we were formed in. (I still feel more secure either lecturing or listening to one than I do interacting in a small group, especially of strangers.
The problem, and you alluded to it, is that lectures are being tuned out by most under 30. (Perhaps the age is moving toward 40 by now.) So, if people are no longer listening, why keep talking? I'm exaggerating and oversimplifying to make the point.

The teacher, pastor, attorney, etc. used to be the source of authority because they were also the source, and consequently the key, to knowledge. This is no longer the case. Knowledge can be found at the click of a mouse -- part of the leveling brought on by technology... not always the most accurate or best knowledge, but in the mind of the student, it's easy to obtain, so why sit and listen to a teacher or pastor drone on, when you can be texting, twittering, face booking, or web surfing.

I'm not putting values on these trends, just stating the obvious. Technology may at times be an ally and at times an enemy, but like it or not, it's here to stay. The future is upon us...

Laurel Long said...

The best and most consummate teachers, professors,and mentors combine what they know with who they are, and lavish unselfishly, energetically, and unreservedly all of that human knowledge and empiricism on their students.
They can't help it, they will teach even when they do not get paid.
I am so thankful that I was finally able to be the student of such teachers.

Brian Emmet said...

Some of the most formative moments in all of our lives has been listening to lecture-style presentations by Simpson, Mumford, etc. Not saying the world hasn't changed, just that it's a bit too early to totally chuck a format that has served for several thousand years. I'm not saying it is the ONLY way that people have taught and learned, or that it is the BEST way, just that it has proven effective.

I think we've all observed the ways in which digital technology can feed and strengthen our already deeply-embedded narcissism: what my friend is tweeting will always be more "interesting" than that dull drone of a professor/pastor/speaker; 'course, it can also be way more interesting than the friend who is actually sitting right across from me and attempting to carry on a conversation with me. This generation is obviously not the first to experience boredom, daydreaming and attention deficits of all kinds, we now simply have tools that make all of that way, way easier. I think the destruction of attention spans is an important aspect to this conversation: can people whose attention spans have been reduced to, like, 10-15 seconds really ever learn anything?

John M. said...

Brian, they have to learn "real fast"! :)

I agree with you about the durability and historical effectiveness of the lecture style -- although you would have to admit that Simpson, Mumford, and, I would add, Baxter, weren't exactly standing up and droning on... They were (are) incredible communicators with unforgettable individual styles -- not to mention the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit and the strong sense of destiny we all had. We hung on every word. I used to joke that I would go without clothing and food, in order to buy their tapes, and that wasn't too far from the truth.

I don't think that one person standing up talking radio broadcast style, will go away, but it could be suffering from over use. Couple that with shortened attention spans and the strong interactive conditioning of the present generation, and we will be forced to evaluate how we use it, how long we talk, and work hard at making things interesting and "entertaining". I hate to use that last word, and I tell my students that most days they won't be entertained, but I still try to keep their attention and make things as interesting as possible.

Regarding "overuse", I remember someone advocating the idea of simple church making the point that weddings take a tremendous amount of planning -- even a rehearsal is required for most. The pagentry and the liturgy of a wedding are impressive and beautiful, a very edifying experience. But weddings are special occasions that don't happen every week. The point was then made that many churches, create, plan, rehearse, and perform a "wedding" every week...

Perhaps we should look for how to be more "simple" and interactive on a regular basis, and save lecture style for special occasions, movements, campaigns, and conferences. Interestingly it was always a special occasion or conferences when I heard the teachers speak.

just joe said...

"can people whose attention spans have been reduced to, like, 10-15 seconds really ever learn anything?

I certainly hope so or we are screwed and facing a very dismal future.

I think you and I are talking past each other on this issue Brian. I entirely agree with you that new technology has its downsides and that we must carefully and critically evaluate its use. I also agree that there will always be valuable place for unidirectional teaching or the homily within the church. Apostolic teachers such as Mumford, Simpson, Prince, and Baxter (and now Willard, Peterson, McKnight, McLaren, Padgit) will always have an honored place to “teach” with authority… even as St. Paul and St. Peter did in the New Testament.

However that is not my principle point.

I’m talking about a massive drop in church participation among 20-somethings and a corresponding loss of faith in the millennial generation of my two younger kids. In the trenches, in local churches, homily’s and lectures are not, NOT going to get the job done. Maybe nothing will and I should just shut up and mind my own business and let this young generation go to hell.

I am not in any way comparing myself or any of us to Martin Luther, but there must have come a point in time when he was faced with a choice between two alternatives shortly after the invention of the printing press; to just continuing offering mass in Latin, or to try something new, and to begin writing pamphlets and even to produce a translation of the Bible in German. Undoubtedly, for a time he did both. For all I know, he continued celebrating the mass in Latin for the rest of his life. But he innovated a new form of communication that corresponded to recent changes in technology and it changed Europe and changed history.

I read somewhere that the explosion of the charismatic movement, and in particular the astounding growth of Christian Growth Ministries and the shepherding movement corresponded with the invention of cassette recorders and the mass availability of cheap forms of reproducing audio teachings through cassettes.

"Insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome".

What the evangelical church at large has been doing is not working. We need to try something different or we will continue to be the “frog in the kettle.” I think that the forms and mediums with which we communicate the gospel must be changed ... and probably the target audience as well. In my humble opinion, its time to stop talking to ourselves (teaching other Christians ad nauseum) and start interactive conversations with unchurched secular young people.

Brian Emmet said...

Not tryijng to pick fights here. I never said that the lecture was the only, or best, way to teach, nor was I "anti-technology," affirming instead the important and very mixed roles that technology can, does, and will play. I'm not resisting the idea that teaching, in whatever form, needs to be engaging for both teacher/s and learner/s, even learners with attenuated attention spans. I cannot argue against Joseph's point that folks in their 20's are largely absent from church, but suspect that fact goes far deeper than whether "church" includes a lecture-style "sermon" or not. I would again offer Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill church in Seattle, along with Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC as strong counter-examples to the idea that 20- and 30-year-olds will not sit still for a lecture-style presentation. Both are large and rapidly-growing communities, and both have large representations of this particular demographic group... and I'm not sure either would fly under the flag of "simple church."

Joseph, we may well be screwed by our technology; I think that is a point that needs making and considering far more often than currently is the case. I am not advocating "business as usual," and would say again that I very much admire, esteem and support your outside-the-box work. I continue to say, and mean, that I have a lot to learn from you. You may not be Martin Luther, but I'm not the Whore of Babylon either!

Happy Independence Day. May God grant all of us to live in deeper daily dependence upon Jesus by the Spirit!

Laurel Long said...

I agree with Brian,
I agree with John,
and I agree with Joseph!!!!!
And I agree with myself for agreeing with all of you!
I just finished reading how Henry VIII's monarchy unwittingly laid the foundation for the Reformation to be established in its inimitable way in Great Britain. He had not necessarily endeavored to do God's will but it seems he collaborated with Him unintentionally, AS WE ALL DO, in our day and age.
How is it that those who use the church for personal and worldly ambition and power and those of us who lay aside personal ambition to promote the "real" Church are continually being used by one and abused by the other? Hmmmm?
Nothing changes, does it?

just joe said...

good points Brian about Mars Hill and the other congregation (and I agree with you Laurel)

and Brian, you are not the whore of Babylon?! Darn! I wish you had clarified that sooner, it might have facilitated our communication.

I suspect, Brian, that the two counter-examples that you provided are composed mostly of what I would call secular "Christian" or unchurched "Christian" young people. I got three for four in our Tuesday group who could probably fit in with those congregations ... Ruth, John, Philip, and Dan ...all raised in church and all fairly discipled in the scriptures and all fairly disillusioned with every-day Christian churches. They would probably enjoy Driscol or Rob Bell.

I think I can safely say that the rest of our gang...secular "unbelievers" with the exception of two secular "new believers" would not fit in with Driscol ... nor would they want to make the attempt.

Even if we filled the U.S. with churches like Mars Hill (unlikely) they would only be catching young people as they drop out of more traditional kinds of churches ... which would represent treading water, not an advance. Who is going to care for the agnostics, the new agers, and those who don't give an flying "f"? when are we going to see shepherds leaving the 99 to go after the one lost sheep?

forgive me for wearing my burden on my colors everything I do ... I'm not scolding you ... mumbling to myself mostly

just joe said...

hey Laurel, if you like British colonial history around the time of the Reformation, or a little after, you might enjoy these little classic books:

Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford UP, 1976).

Henry F. May, The Divided Heart : Essays on Protestantism and the Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford UP, 1991).

here is another classic by a well known historian:

Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction (New York: Knopf, 1986

I think these can all be obtained second hand on amazon, or you might find them in your university library

Brian Emmet said...

Good clarification, Joseph: perhaps Mars Hill and Redeemer Prez are mainly serving folks w/ some Christian background. I really don't know if this is the case or not--and even with all the folks in MH and RP, there are still millions and millions who AREN'T there.

just joe said...

I have been carefully studying young secular people for a while ... and I have been to a few really good megachurches... and my anecdotal impression is that there are NO churches that I know of who are actualy reaching unbelieving secular people with no christian or church background whatsoever. Most megachurches draw people from smaller churches or backslidden Christians who have been unchurched for a few years ... even groups like you mentioned are perhaps giving disillusioned Christian young people a church alternative to go to rather than losing them entirely from church life ...

But I know of no one -- no one -- who is actually doing effective evangelism of people who have never been to a church. I have been thinking about this for years, and it really provokes me. Something is wrong -- healthy churches and disciples ought to reproduce naturally.

John M. said...

What can we learn from this?

"Jesus is asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He answers just three of them -- and he asks 307 questions back! Jesus does not have Q &A sessions. He has Q & Q sessions."

"I Once Was Lost" Don Everts and Doug Schaupp IVP, page 54

Brian Emmet said...

I honestly don't know the backgrounds of the people at Mars Hill or Redeemer Prez. My impression, gained solely from anecdotal reports, is that there are folks from all across the spectrum, but that hypothesis could certainly be tested and contested.

Any value in talking about the reasons why "religious faith" in general, and Christian faith in particular seem so implausible to secular young people? Our not "reaching them" suggests that there are significant problems from our side, and substantial hurdles to overcome from theirs... or is this something we've covered sufficiently?

Robert said...

These considerations stir my interests in "re-presenting" the gospel. I have lived through the years when the 4 spiritual laws were used in a formulaic approach to leading people to Christ. I am not knocking the value of presenting propositions to a certain culture at a specific time. Many of our current leaders probably still have one foot in that chapter. Talking to young adults today who have been raised in a post Christian culture, what do we say? What is the point of engagement? Where are the intersections with their realities that presents an inviting path for discovery? What kind of language does an end run on assumptions about being a Christian? If we moved to a different ethnic setting, we would need to learn the language of that culture to communicate. This is especially true when communicating eternal values. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to someone on the other side of the Grand Canyon...a gigantic gulf between where I am and where they are. It isn't always that perplexing...sometimes a divine connection happens that gets past all that...and good things happen. Jesus had a way of asking questions that opened people's hearts. What are those questions today? Hmmm...I am asking a lot of questions.

just joe said...

Brian: I’m basing my educated guess on my knowledge of several good mega-churches here in Miami and elsewhere. These churches do a great job of being “seeker sensitive” and are very well presented with great dynamic music, and great ‘trendy’ programs. One of our young protégé’s from our youth group at our old church (Charis) attends their young adult group and both pastors are very good friends of mine. From what I can tell, the church (vineyard) is growing by reaching Christians who are dropping out of other, less successful or more problematic churches (and perhaps occasionally the backslider who has not attended church since childhood).

Also, from getting to know the secular non-Christian kids in our Tuesday group, they would not have the slightest interest in attending this mega-church. In fact, they would be very turned-off by the carefully scripted and slightly impersonal aspect of it. If anyone at Mars or R.Prez does come from an entirely unchurched background, I can guarantee you it is not because of the pastor, church or worship style, but because a trusted friend brought them. Perhaps the pastor, music or worship style makes it easier for them to stay AFTER a friend has brought them.

As far as why--I think "we" are the problem: Christians are the main enemy of mission; the medium is the problem not the message. The book “Unchristian” spells it out. Non-Christians largely (and accurately IMHO) perceive Christians as inauthentic, unloving, judgmental and hypocritical. It reminds me of several passages where Jesus confronted the Pharisees about standing at the door of the kingdom and not only not entering, but blocking the entrance for others. This is not just a problem of methods, or structures: it is a problem of substance.

Robert: I think your interest in “re-presenting” the gospel is a worthy idea. I have had the same questions you are asking here. The last few years of being a 50-something grad student among secular 20-something students has felt like a cultural immersion – like when I lived in Bogotá Colombia for two years trying to understand the culture and learn how to speak Spanish fluently. Any ideas of how to proceed?

I wish I had more space to tell you about our god-party last night. 15 showed up, there were tears, vulnerability and prayers. The topic was forgiveness.

I think John 13:35 goes to the heart of "re-presenting" the gospel.

just joe said...

John: I didn’t mean to overlook you. Your observation about asking questions is profound. In our Tuesday group, I never set myself up as the teacher, nor do I ever talk more than two minutes at a time. I almost entirely teach or direct the conversation by asking questions and listening. It has literally been years since I have crafted and delivered a sermon.

Robert said...

Len Sweet has a new web site...check it out. Len is forward thinking...and talking.

just joe said...

please, please do me a favor and go to Andrew Marin's web site and watch his home video of a gay parade.

Gay Parade Video 9 of 11

make sure you watch it until the end when he weeps and prays.

This guy inspires me and puts me to shame. I honestly don’t know how he does it. Where I get pissed, sullen and sarcastic, he weeps and prays for both communities: Christians and gays, even as the christians are shouting at him and telling him he is going to hell. I would have given them the finger.

I feel humbled and embarrassed at my own wimpy—whinny moods. It is guys like this that will lead us through this kairos moment into agape epochal transition.

just joe said...

oops, sorry. I was in a hurry and messed up the link. Here is the correct link to his video:

Gay Parade Video 9 of 11

and here is the url to his web site.

Love is an Orientation

please pray for this guy and buy his book and read it.

Laurel Long said...

Thanks for the reading list, I do appreciate it so much. I am not so much interested in a particular time period, at least not yet, until I have surveyed the whole.
I have just arrived a little past the Reformation and am now reading about its effects on western culture; the colonies, the Empire, the world.
To all of you.
Whether we teach in a conventional, traditional, or post modern venue, we had better be effective and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is not the setting, style, or the context, it is whether or not we have been empowered by the HOly Spirit to speak. I believe the Lord can use us powerfully in any context we find ourselves. Jesus did not need to change the setting or style or consult conventional wisdom when He spoke, He just spoke; people listened and responded. It sounds to me that each one of you, and I must include myself, are being effective teachers and witnesses to the particular group of people in which the Lord has placed you.
Maybe it is not style and technique but our fruit that is the best argument of effectiveness.
Isn't is just like the Lord to make sure that we can't be copy cats of one another? Whatever we do for Him and in His name is always directly connected to our relationship with Him. At least, that's been my experience-with Him.

John M. said...

Thanks Laurel...I wish I could tell jokes like Billy! :)

Laurel Long said...

Me too, Joseph!

Laurel Long said...

Hey guys,
I just wanted to let you know of a very significant event that occurred last night. The only reason I know about it is because my sister, who lives in Orange County, was a part of the historic event.
There was a reunion and concert by Love Song at Calvary Chapel. It was first come...but because we have dear friends who are on the "inside" she was able to get in to the building and enjoy the concert up close and personal. Our good friend Chris Taylor did sound for the concert. Chris is on Amy Grants first album, ;you can look up his name if you happen to have an old record laying around.
Anyway, my sister and I talked and cried today about the days when we were right in the middle of church history without understanding the significance of what we were a part of.
Of course, Calvary Chapel was packed, just like it was in those early days, and several hundred people were left outside unable to get in, but the remembrance of what the Lord was doing in those wonderful, merciful days, made for a tearful atmosphere among all those attended. The realization, after years of walking with the Lord, that He, for some Providential purpose, decided to make an example of all of us who were hopelessly lost without Him, was appropriately humbling. My sister said that Chuck SMith, who is now in his 80's now, wept without shame or reservation during the concert.
Each member of the group, Love Song, have quite amazing stories. They are all still walking with the Lord and have served Him in various countries and disciplines since their fame in the 70's. What a testimony to God's grace and love on our generation!!!!!
Just thought you'de like to know.

Laurel Long said...

Please accept my apology. I misread the name on the comment. I should have said, Me too, John. So sorry!!!!!

John M. said...

Laurel, no problem, I knew what you meant.

The Love Song reunion concert sounds awesome! A lot of us have wonderful memories of those days...I, like you, am very grateful for the privilege of being part of those heady days, but my prayer is, "that was then this is now; Lord move today in your way for this day..."

Brian Emmet said...

I've been in and out again, but am now "at home" for two weeks' running! So you should find yourselves blessed and favored with more of my insightful and perspicacious commentray soon.

Laurel, with your interest in history, you might want to check out David Bentley Hart's book "Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Cultured Despisers" or something very close to that. Amazingly gifted writer and thinker. He mainly focuses on first- through twelfth-centuries, and is not seeking to write a history of this millennium, but to show the ways history disproves the contentions of the "new atheists" (Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hitchens, et. al.).

Laurel Long said...

Thank you for your gracious forbearance.
Yes, that was then and this is now but now has no meaning unless we can connect it to then! We did and we can continue. I am certain you agree.
Thank you also for the recommendation of reading material. It especially caught my attention because I have an aunt that I dearly love who is an avowed atheist and who espouses every single agenda that is compatible with this un-belief system. However, we have made a pact for love's sake not to argue about our beliefs. I have agreed to this only because she reads mine and Billy's blogs and so, our communication remains in tact. The thing she doesn't realize is that for "love's sake" I will do whatever to keep my voice in her life. She is aging and time is of the essence. If you knew her you would love too!
Thanks Brian.

Laurel Long said...

Who are the immortal seven? I know you are studying, but when you get a minute could you please confirm, correct, and add to my list:
Erasmus, Luther,Calvin,Loyola, Francis Xavier,...

just joe said...

Please excuse my ignorance. I thought the immortal seven were seven notable English men who co-signed a letter to William of Orange inviting him to intervene in England against James Stuart on behalf of Protestantism, culminating in the Glorious Revolution which deposed James and replaced him with William and Mary.

If I were to add two more names to the list of Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Loyola, Francis Xavier… hmmmm… I guess I would add John Wesley and …. Hmmmm…. The seventh one is hard …. I might include Manuel da Nobrega or Jose Anchieta, Jesuit missionaries to Brazil … but I can’t think of anyone who stands out quite like the other six. In terms of believers who have changed the world, I would have to go with Mother Teresa for number seven.

A case could also be made for William Carey or Hudson Taylor I suppose.

Brian Emmet said...

What, I didn't make the list?

Laurel Long said...

You are right, but I just realized after reading the paragraph more carefully that LaTourette (The History of Christianity, Vol. II) is playing with this term, the immortal seven, and ascribing the same exigency and importance to their work in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. I think he means to impress upon the reader that these men, Calvin, Xavier,etc., are the original "immortal seven."
The real copy-cats are those who designed and administrated the so-called "Glorious Revolution."
I could be totally wrong, but for now these are my impressions.
Thanks for responding! Sometimes my mind is dull, but I think I am understanding LaTourette's playfulness.

just joe said...

oh, got it! in other words, not an all-star list of Christians from all ages, but rather 7 key Christian leaders from the period of the Reformation? That clarifies it.

In that case, I would suggest St. Teresa of Avila. She lived in the later part of the 16th century, around the time of Calvin, and she has had a tremendous influence on spiritual theology and devotion.

Other than her, my pick for the #8 spot would be Menno Simons.

"Menno Simons influence on Anabaptism in the Low Countries was so great that Baptist historian William Estep suggested that their history be divided into three periods: "before Menno, under Menno, and after Menno". He is especially significant in coming to the Anabaptist movement in the north in its most troublesome days, and helping not only to sustain it, but also to establish it as a viable Radical Reformation movement

Brian: don't be discouraged. Usually you have to perform at least one miracle and recognition only comes after you die (although admitedly, none of the reformers performed miracles that I know of).

Laurel Long said...

I can't believe, or maybe I should believe, I never heard this term;the "immortal seven," since it supposedly initiates the Glorious Revolution-1688. This date initiates the very beginning of the course I took in British History: 1688-1914. I must ask Dr. Allen why he did not include it in our notes.
I am going to investigate this term further just to make sure my presumptions are correct. I have been known to be an idiot on occasion, however, I usually recover my brilliant status after a very short period of time.
Mother Teresa, for whom the Counter-Refomation St. Teresa was named is one of my favorite people. Not because I think I could ever be like her, but because I never will and there is a very profound respect provoked by this eternal fact of my life on this earth. She is a shining mirror of light that blinds me and my goal is to "see." I would be so glad to serve her in eternity.
LaTourette is quite a literary magician. His tone in writing about the Protestant Reformation is very analytical and critical in order to appear objective, above reproach in historical objectivity. He nearly deprecates major events in its progress and assimilation into the advance of Western Civ.
But, when he talks about the Catholic Counter-Revolution he is ecstatic and euphoric. His writing becomes an engaging drama with a persuasive and empathetic tone that the reader can not abandon. It is as if he has been drawn back into the Fold; that he heard the Universal, centurial voice calling out to all who left it during this period. Or is all to prove, that as a modern Protestant and historian, he can be objective? I am sorry, but he have has given himself away. He may have been a secret Catholic at heart.
My sentiments are aroused, my suspicions excited and my respect and for all he writes about augmented.
I have to quit writing and pray now about all this. It all comes down on me so heavily at times.