Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be Good!

I was thinking about what I might pass along to a young couple getting married. What might encourage them in their married lives? I did not want to be typical or trite. Marriage is far too important for such things. Then it came to me: Be good! Now that certainly does not sound as romantic as "Love each other" or as enduring as "Remain faithful," but it has importance.

Usually, when someone says to be good, it is meant as an admonition to not misbehave or embarrass, but rather keep a respectable deportment in a situation. It is the least expectation. Society does the same with peace by referring to a lack of open conflict. From a scriptural viewpoint, the true meaning goes much further.

In Exodus 33:18, Moses asked God to show his glory. God responded by promising to cause all His goodness to pass before Moses (33:19). See the picture? The glory is reflected in goodness. And what comprises that goodness? It is listed in Exodus 34:6-7:

Slow to anger
Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

God tells Moses what it means to be good and do good by describing Himself. With these as a regular part of the marriage, blessing should be inevitable. Through it the couple demonstrates the glory that is there as God intended in the marriage union.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Christian Education

An old acquaintance asked for my input on Christian education. The beeping sound he heard was me dumping my load. I thanked him for the opportunity and thought this would be a good place to reiterate some of what I shared.

I have given this much thought over the years but do not have a final conclusion on the proper course, but here is what I see. Ideally, a mini-seminary in each church would be ideal, but that may not be the best route.

Content—The whole counsel of God
Over the years, I have made comments about the need for expository teaching of all Scripture. The usual reactions include (with my response):

1. "We cannot cover everything on a Sunday morning and Wed. night." - How do you know? Have you ever tried?
2. "People won't sit through a long series." - Yes, they will, if they see the need and the relevance.
3. "We need to address current issues/events/needs [pick one]." - Plans can be adjusted if need be. But do they need to be? What is more important: temporal needs or eternal truths? I will allow that there are times the former should be addressed, but which of these is driving the philosophy of education?

After reading Shepherding God's Flock by Jay Adams and other works I don't remember at the moment, I put together a 5-year plan to go through all of Scripture and the major doctrines. Admittedly, it is more of a survey than in-depth study, but people are introduced to where things are and what they say.

Method—Large group
The example from the pulpit should be systematic and expository, but it does not have to be entirely lecture. In the last two years attending my last church, I encouraged the men to ask questions at the end of my messages about what was said. Basically, I treated it like a quasi-classroom. They got so comfortable with that that some would raise their hands in the middle and ask. We all enjoyed it. Not only were they comfortable enough to ask, but something on their minds got resolved and did not detract from the rest of what I was saying.

Do you may remember that Willow Creek did a study of their teaching philosophy and determined that they had done things wrongly? Their solution was to put into effect a plan empowering people to be self-feeders. I humbly disagree with that approach, because it appears to be leaving a sheep without a shepherd. The examples of self-feeders in Scripture are as rare as hen's teeth—one might make a case for the Ethiopian eunuch. The Biblical example is discipleship (2 Tim 2:2). These are older, mature, godly people teaching and being a living example to younger. This is most natural in the home, but connections need to be made where that is not possible. Sheep left to themselves will usually get lost and/or starve to death.

I think this little gem needs to be polished up and reset in its place. I have two examples of why this is true, both involving my former high school Sunday School class. The first came about when the elders decided to teach a survey of doctrine to the adults. I had been given the task of teaching the same adult topic/passage to the high school class. For this survey, I decided to use the Nicene Creed. It had all the elements I needed to cover, and where it was weak in eschatology, I filled in. The students loved it. The second example came when I was at a loss concerning which direction to go in the class. At this time we were operating without elders, so I had to do what I thought best. I decided to teach the Heidelberg Catechism telling them along the way which parts I disagreed with and why. Again, they loved it. Now maybe it was partly the instructor, but they learned and retained much of it.

After seeing their reaction, I decided to try putting together a similar thing starting with the London Baptist Confession of Faith but geared to the Plymouth Brethren. It didn't get far though.

The early church began this type of thing, usually as a prelude to baptism and church membership, and it was carried forward through church history. As a credo-baptist, I would not use it in that way, but I still think it important in order to lay out the basics of theology.

These elements need to be integrated into the thinking of the local church. It is a massive undertaking because of the planning required. It is an unpopular notion because it runs contrary to modern evangelical thought. It will work because it has been proven over and again in Scripture and history.

Ruminate on that awhile.