Tuesday, August 02, 2011

How can anyone learn if they are interacting?

This paragraph from a subtly titled post The Problem With Cell Groups elicited both a wry chuckle and a facepalm at the same time. 
In the typical cell group, no one actually teaches. Rather, one person will moderate a conversation. The environment created is typically one wherein everyone is encouraged to share his or her opinion and all ideas are considered valid. Should another member of the group actually critique another person’s contribution to the discussion, he is seen as being divisive. Rather than promoting Biblical fidelity, the typical cell group is actually promoting relativism.
Everyone is encouraged to share their opinion? Gasp! The horror!

Let me say first that in a way I get it. There is a lot of shallow study in the church. Frankly a lot of it happens within the four walls of church buildings. Lots of Christians have never advanced beyond the "milk" stage. Again, those folks have spent lots of time being sermonized and Sunday schooled. So yes we need more Biblical literacy, not less. Quashing discussion is not going to encourage that. I also would point out that the reason we have "cell groups" or small groups or Bible studies or whatever is that people are not getting fellowship on Sunday morning so maybe the problem is not cell groups but rather our church traditions. Just saying.

The bigger underlying issue is the paranoia of losing control. When a pastor preaches from the pulpit every week, he controls the conversation. There are no alternate views and there is no discussion. No one makes a mistake or says the "wrong" thing. When you control the medium, you control the message. Some pastors are OK with being questioned afterward but I have also met (and been) the kind of pastor who views that as somehow disrespectful. Now when you get small groups of Christians meeting outside of the control of the "leadership"...who is in charge? Who is making sure no one says the wrong thing? When the "laity" gets loose, chaos ensues and control is lost. So the solution is to hand pick certain men to teach (i.e. lecture) and then field questions in order to provide authoritative answers. Open discussion is straight up dangerous!

Isn't this just having a smaller scale sermon? One person "teaches" while everyone else listens? The answer probably would be an enthusiastic and unapologetic "yes!" because most of the church assumes that listening to a monologue is the best way of learning and this is especially true in Reformed circles where sermons are good and more sermons is better.

The church needs to stop being afraid of the laity, of open discussion, of questions. The church too often functions like the old Soviet Union when it comes to controlling the message. The result is a laity that is ill informed and immature. Guess what. They will never stop being immature if they are constantly coddled and spoon fed teaching. Pastors/elders need to remember that while they are called to watch over the church and be watchful for wolves, they are also called to equip the entire Body for ministry and mature faith.

Elders, the church is not a seething mass of potential heretics to be afeerd of. The are your brothers and sisters in Christ. The best defense against heresy is not to control the message, it is to equip and empower the entire Body. By definition a mature Christian is not a heretic so lets stop treating our brothers and sisters as if they are guilty of heresy until proven otherwise.

No comments: