Thursday, February 10, 2011

Will Our Children Have Faith Part 3: A More Dynamic Theology

One of my continuing concerns is not being clear on what we desire to achieve through our catechetical (educational) efforts. Our aim, I suggest, is to form Christ-like communal persons and communities. This implies for me clarity of faith, of how we are to perceive God. Many people have unhealthy images of God that need to be healed. (46)

One of Westerhoff's concerns is not only the 'school paradigm' in the church's catechesis,but also the wide variety of theological options offered to church-goers today. We need 'Theological Essentials' according to Westerhoff.

Westerhoff seems to suggest a level of biblical and theological engagement on the part of every disciple (not just us 'professionals') that is rare in my experience and difficult to cultivate. To make it plain (and I say this with much love) very few adults have time or inclination to devote to study and discussion of the bible and theology. I've been a pastor for 11 years (in New England) and adult bible study/discussion opportunities have been poorly attended whenever and wherever I've been a pastor (which may say more about me than anything).

In practical terms what I think is more confusing for the average church-goer is not the wide variety of theological options that come from theological institutions; liberation, neo-orthodoxy, post-liberal, etc, but the wide variety of theological options that come from popular culture. For example,take a peek at this partial list from Brueggemann that I found here:

1. Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.

2. We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.

3. The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4. That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5. That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.

Brueggemann's 'script' equals my interpretation of Westerhoff's 'theology'.

A church that is not actively engaged in learning, teaching and practicing the faith will not only be unable to 'flip the script' that is, discern its theological script in opposition to the social script, but it will also be unable to recognize the cultural idols, religions, faiths and spiritual scripts that Brueggemann suggests are forming us at every moment of every day.

In other words, we are failing to be church because we are allowing ourselves to be formed more in the image of popular culture than we are being formed by faith in God.

What to do in order to encourage a more dynamic faith?

1. Longer Sermons. Yup, I said it. 15-20 minutes a sunday will not offer enough of a script to undermine the cultural script, especially since there is little to no participation in other study/worship opportunities throughout the week.

2. sermon's as dialogue. So I am not suggesting longer lectures, I am suggesting more time spent engaging together in the Word of God. I begin with questions, open ended, and simple... What three things would you tell someone who doesn't know anything about Jesus? What five things would you say about God? What struck you as strange or curious about our scripture reading today? Did you feel challenged or threatened by the reading? What about the reading made you feel that way?

3. Devotions. I write devotions for most of my sermons. They most often follow up on the major themes or points of every sermon.

4. Action. Every sermon leads to action. Every lesson leads to action. Every Bible discussion leads to mission, ministry, action. What are we going to do with what we have discussed? What would the belief that we have discussed today look like in action?

5. Mentoring. Folks who want to join the church enter a One year mentorship that involves bible study, participation in ministries, a mission project, and classes with the pastor.

What would you do to encourage a more dynamic theology that 'flips the script?'

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