April 11, 2020

When Christians Gather

I can partly understand expository preaching from an educational standpoint, but the Sunday morning congregation as a one room schoolhouse has no individualized lesson planning, no exercises or seatwork, and no assessment or feedback... which makes it terribly ineffective education. A large lecture auditorium still has its uses--e.g., college and high school, even corporate development--but the audience for each lecture should be particular, not universal. Sunday mornings now require retooling.

Like most formal christian traditions, the practical dynamics behind pulpiteering are based in conditions from centuries ago. The stone cathedrals of Europe were cavernous megaphones, optimal tech in those days for mass communicating. The Greek amphitheater was the ancient equivalent of broadcast airwaves, now replaced again by the digital interwebs. If preaching in person is primarily meant to convey information, podcasts and YouTube work infinitely better than physical gatherings.

As an educator at heart, I fervently support the generation and dissemination of informative content, but the gathering of Christian believers provides us with a far more valuable opportunity. Scripture assures us that God can be found within God's word and within God's people. We need to learn better ways to bring these two things together. Sadly, just filling the time slot leads to "share your ignorance" sessions, and pentebabbleism that isn't pretentious veers toward superstition... but these are not our only options.

Christian education is essential for long-term community formation, but for regular spiritual encouragement we need participatory exercise. Fortunately, participation need not breed pointless nonsense. In both large and small groups, we do not simply need to have people fill the air with their own words and emotions. What we need is for THOSE WHO KNOW HOW TO SHARE OF THE LORD to learn how to TRAIN OTHERS TO DO SO. We need to edify one another by expanding our sense and awareness of God's being and presence.

If you and your fellowship don't know what I mean, or how to get there, or if you all simply lack prior expertise, then I can only recommend years of patient trial and error. By God's grace, time can be a blessing. There's a reason your Lord was called Jesus of Nazareth. That baby in the manger had not begun to experience God as a human, nor could he speak knowingly about spiritual wisdom. Jesus grew. Jesus learned. A non-famous day laborer spent thirty-ish years in one town, finding God, and figuring out how to share God with others.

If your congregation believes Jesus lives in you and among you, then I believe you can learn to do likewise, if you take enough years to keep trying. After that, once you know something, please teach us all.


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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton