A thought about discipleship: push and pull

My wife studies educational theory. One interesting fact I have been able to grasp from our conversations about it is that there are two basic views on how to educate people. These two views both involve the link between learning and development. The first view is that a person’s learning pulls their development along, while the other view claims that a persons development pushes their learning along. These two theories have complicated names and explanations so I just call them ‘pull’ and ‘push’ learning. Pull education is about teaching people something to help them grow, whereas push education is about waiting for people to grow before teaching them.

push and pull

Push and pull learning are quite fascinating when you think about the practical implications. Take the school system for example. Should the curriculum be designed to stretch students beyond their capacity so that they can learn faster than if they were not challenged? Or should it be tailored to their natural mental development? There is a lot of debate about how much we can shape the internal growth of children through external influences, and how much we can’t. I can relate to this push and pull dynamic in my personal development. There have been times when new desires, drives and capacities have developed spontaneously in me which have ‘pushed’ me into new explorations and learning that I wouldn’t have had a desire for before. But there have also been other experiences and exposures due to my environment which have inspired (pulled?) me towards growing in an area that I would have never have desired if left to myself.

All this makes me wonder: how does this apply to Christian growth and discipleship? Continue reading

How would you design a church building?

Many of us have attended church gatherings in different buildings with a variety of styles and philosophies behind them. Big ones, small ones, old ones and modern ones. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly! And I’m sure some of us felt our inner interior designer or architect emerge every now and then, where we’ve wished we could rearrange things a little. Or maybe you just have an inner elder-to-be and you’ve felt that church buildings don’t facilitate the best atmosphere for Christian communities to prosper. Either way, we’ve all felt some things distract or focus us, excite or frustrate us. Perhaps we have a pet hate for hard pews, or we once visited a church and loved their really cool coffee shop attached. Whatever the case, I’m sure we all agree that the church building influences our experience of the church service in some way.

So…

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If YOU were asked to design and build a new church building, and you wanted it to be a good influence on the congregation, how would you try to achieve that? What things would you do differently to the norm? What traditional elements would you keep?

I’d love to hear what your ideal church building would be like and why! 🙂

Is preaching past its sell-by date?

One issue I often have to address in my itinerant preaching is the abiding relevance of preaching. One interviewer said to me after hearing me preach, “But don’t you think you put too much confidence and emphasis on preaching? People have their Bibles now. Shouldn’t they simply be encouraged to read their Bibles and then come together to discuss what they are learning from their Bible reading?” That is the popular mindset. Men and women do not want to be told what to believe and how to live. They want to share their opinions. This is particularly observable in the blogosphere. Continue reading

Attitudes toward the Holy Land: spiritual places and sacred spaces

When I was younger, I saw church buildings as being different to other places. I couldn’t imagine us gathering there to watch an important sports match and all screaming and waving our supporters flags. Neither was it even thinkable that we could hold one of our regular social functions there, with beer flowing and people making all sorts of colourful jokes. The church building was a holy place; a sacred space for serious religious activity where God (and the minister) was watching. So, from a young age I started thinking of some spaces as spiritual and others as not. Later, when I became a Christian, it didn’t stop. I dreamed of climbing onto a plane and visiting Israel – the Holy Land! The place where the dramas of Scripture unfolded – where Abraham walked, where David reigned, where the prophets are buried and the events in the Gospels took place.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Jerusalem and Galilee seemed somehow sacred to me all those years ago, as if God is more present there. Continue reading

Theme of the month: Church buildings

This month I will be publishing a post summarizing the chapter in Pagan Christianity about church buildings. Frank Viola and George Barna provide some interesting facts about the history of church architecture and thoughts on how meeting in a “sacred building” affects our faith. I will also be adding a few new bible re-mixes about church in the “Scriptures about church… as we live them” series, this time about church buildings. I hope to have some interesting discussions with you about the types of venues that you attend Christian gatherings in – whether it be a cathedral, a cinema or a home – and whether or not they are an important factor in ‘how we do church’.

NotreDameParis

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Recently, I visited the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. It is a very impressive building – especially if you like Gothic architecture – dating back to around AD 1100. As I stood and looked at it, I couldn’t help thinking about how much had changed since the days of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Continue reading

Scriptures about church… as we live them #5

Alan Knox runs a great website called The Assembling of the Church which touches on many of the issues tackled in the book Pagan Christianity that we are discussing from a different angle. One series that he does is called “Scripture… as we live it”, where he ‘edits’ bible verses to expose how we sometimes do church unbiblically. I think it’s a great concept. Here’s a slightly changed example of how Alan thinks we often live out Scripture:
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And they devoted themselves to listening to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread to passing out small bits of bread and small cups of juice a few times each year, and the prayers a few of them attended the weekly prayer meeting. (Acts 2:42 re-mix)
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Let me know what you think about how these early Christians lived as seen in Acts, and whether it differs to your experience of your church community… What do you think Alan is pointing out here with his re-mix?

Scriptures about church… as we live them #4

Alan Knox runs a great website called The Assembling of the Church which touches on many of the issues tackled in the book Pagan Christianity that we are discussing from a different angle. One series that he does is called “Scripture… as we live it”, where he ‘edits’ bible verses to expose how we sometimes do church unbiblically. I think it’s a great concept. Here’s a slightly changed example of how Alan thinks we often live out Scripture:
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I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands bow their heads and close their eyes without anger or quarreling agreeing with the pastoral prayer… (1 Timothy 2:8 re-mix)
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I have often wondered why we don’t get more time to pray together in church services – sort of all at the same time with our hands in the air like Paul instructs here. When last did you practice this Scripture properly in church? Was it a good experience? Obviously our sisters are exempted by Paul for this one, perhaps on account of weak arms… 😉