Time to get a teaching programme on the go for the autumn -or is it?
Some provocative thoughts from Simon Jones on "a sideways glance" who has been reading some of the same books that I have!
Shaking up the faithful
"One of the points Hirsch makes early on is that the urge for community can lead us to seek safety above discipleship. 'Too much concern with safety and security, combined with comfort and convenience, has lulled us out of our true calling and purpose.' (p25)
As my anonymous friend points out 'perhaps discipleship is about being selfless' - absolutely right. Discipleship is the polar opposite of consumerism because it is always seeking the welfare and benefit of others rather than ourselves.
Such a calling requires people who are constantly asking questions. If Hirsch is right that 'the most vigorous forms of community are those that come together in the context of a shared ordeal or those that define themselves as a group with a mission that lies beyond themselves - thus initiating a risky journey' (p25), then our gatherings should be awash with questions about what we're doing, why and how we'll do it.
The church's mantra should focus less on answers (the usual focus of teaching programmes that fill our people's heads with information) and more on questions (what is the shape of discipleship in the context we actually live in? How do we live for others in that context?)
So I agree with anonymous that 'Christian teaching might not be all it's cracked up to be' in this sense: if a teaching programme is just about filling people's heads with information that has precious little effect on how we live when we're not in church, then it's not going to make disciples and is really a complete waste of evryone's time.
And it's not what Jesus did. As Hirsch points out: Jesus 'spoke in confusing riddles (parables) that evoked spiritual search in the hearers. Nowhere does he give three-point devotional sermons that cover all the bases. His audience had to do the hard work of filling in the blanks. In other words, they were not left passive but were activated in their spirits.' (p44)
Now that would shake things up a bit.