How People Learn, How We Worship, Why a Network, and Women in Leadership

02Sep04

These things have been on my these past few days. I don’t have time or mental capacity to go deep into any of these right now, but a few thoughts on each:

How People Learn – Lately I’ve heard the criticism (?) that VC needs more “teaching”. Or I’ve heard that people like going to “regular church” to get “regular teaching”. These have provoked the question – how do people learn? What are people expecting/needing in terms of teaching/learning? I think part of the issue is a misconception of learning (and teaching, for that matter). So how (probably from 12+ years of “formal” education) we have become conditioned to live by the paradigm of passive learning. We assume that the “correct” way to learn, (especially!?) the Bible, is to receive instruction from an expert (i.e. Pastor). I take issue with this belief. Not only is it theologically suspect and eccelisiastically dangerous, but it is incomplete psychologically. In other words, I don’t think that lecture-hall presentation of information (a “banking-model” of education) is a sufficient way to learn anything. People don’t learn that way! Now before the lovers o’ lecture get all hot and bothered, let me say that I think good lecture (sermon or otherwise) has a place. I have learned quite a bit from this, but it is NOT complete and MUST happen in the context of ongoing dialogue and action (i.e a community of learners and practitioners). Here are some quotes and a web that are informative:

“New developments in the science of learning also emphasize the importance of helping people take control of their own learning.”

“Participation in social practice is a fundamental form of learning. Learning involves becoming attuned to the constraints and resources, the limits and possibilities, that are involved in the practices of the community.”

from: How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

So, when I hear that people want more “teaching” I interpret that as two things. 1) they honestly desire to learn and grow in their faith (a good thing), 2) they assume that this can only happen if an expert tells them the “right” answer (not a good thing).

Again – I’m not eschewing indepth study, formal education, or those who know more teaching those who know less – these are all good things, but they are not complete. Learning – true, deep, and transformative – happens when a group of people interact corporately and individually with a subject from multiple angles over a period of time that results in a change of behavior (both as a result and as a process of experimentation which aids understanding and internalization).

How We Worship – Been thinking about how and why we worship. Especially for our House Church, but also for the network in general. What’s the point of worship? Surely it is not so that we can feel warm and fuzzy. And I’m not sure I like the idea that we’re giving God “strokes” – surely he doesn’t need them, I doubt he’s that insecure. True, I think he enjoys our worship of him, it makes him happy – like when I buy flowers for Sarah. But I think worship is more than that.

If faith is really a proclaimation of allegiance to God, then worship is the public declaration of that allegiance. It is the (primary?) way we say to the world – “we belong to a different Kingdom and a different King”.

That said – how do we do this thing called “worship”? I’m not entirely sure, but two things that I would like to recapture are corporate song and eucharist. Singing together does something to us (and to the Watching World). It knits us together, it focuses us, it centers us, it simmers us down, it revs us up, it moves us, it stills us – all that is necessary and needed. Very often I enter into our house church gathering feeling disjointed and disconnected. I feel like I stumble and bump my way into our time together. I don’t like that. I would like to see us (again, this is primarily for our HC, apply to others as needed) sing more together – songs that we all can learn and know. I want us to wait on the Lord together, to truly pray together, to listen together. Music helps those things to happen. It seems to act as some kind of grease that helps things move more fluidly.

Eucharist functions similarly. Theology of Presence aside, it speaks volumes to one another and the world. It says, “I pledge allegiance to the One whose body was broken and blood was shed, I belong to this body of Christ”. I like that we take Communion together at the end of each of our HC gatherings. But I want us to be more attentive to the Presence. I like that we are casual about it, that we use same cups and plates for other meals. I like that children are welcomed at the table. I would like, though, for us to recapture more of a sense of preparation and participation in the Eucharist. I like the liturgy for it, as it keys us in to what we are doing and why we are doing it. I’m not sure about open vs. closed communion or if we should always take it, but it is important to our life together and I want us to recognize that.

Why a Network – Because I think it opens up what God wants to do in us and our neighborhood. Centralization pulls everything together – like a funnel. Which means that there is only one, centralized, small opening through which stuff can flow. A network works more like a colander, a sieve, lots of stuff get through. God is doing stuff all over the place so if it all has to be approved by one person, team, or body then it breaks down. Its the whole “priesthood of all believers” deal.

Any corporate functions (meaning all network) should be secondary and supportive to the primary function of the little bands of believers gathered together on mission. So an AllGroup, any kind of “Core” whatsoever, Pastoral Council, Leadership Community, Community Houses, etc… give preference to house churches. Why? Not because House Churches are sacred! Because 1) that is how this community has chosen to live its life together, and 2) more importantly, transformation and Kingdom-ward action takes place more effectively in small groups of people. Its just plain true. I’m trying not to sound dogmatic or something. But 10ish years of ministry have shown me time and again that people become more Christ-like in groups where they are actually known (accountability and vulnerability) and that people are empowered to do more together when they have the responsibility and authority to discern God’s call together and then act on that call.

Women in Leadership – Yes. Its part of my theology of creation – man and woman, both made in the image of God. Sure there are natural giftings and roles that men and women differ on, but I think there is a place for women in leadership in VC – pastoring house churches, on the pastoral committee, teaching, etc…. If God isn’t male or female, and if he has the attributes of each, then we need both genders in positions of influence for a healthy body.

Ok, hopefully that wasn’t too much of a rant, it wasn’t suppose to be. Just stuff that has been on my mind of late. I guess I went on more than I thought I would (not surprising, I usually talk too much!). I would love to know your thoughts (whoever reads this!) on this stuff or with where God is leading VC.

Peace to all tread these waters.

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