Friday, June 29, 2007

The Journey

Whether we believe it or not, we, God's children, are on a journey. We are on a journey with Christ as our guide. There are many different stages in the journey and every journey can be different. But I believe the journey is all to the same place.

There are some who are slowly walking through the hottest of deserts with Jesus looking for a water source.

There are some who are scaling the side of a mountain with Jesus one step ahead of them checking for danger spots.

Some who are deep within the deepest of valleys with Jesus making them a trail.

There are some who are strolling calmly through a wide open field with Jesus strolling by their side.

Some have stopped and Jesus is calling for them right over the next ridge.

Some thought they knew a better way, so Jesus is following them - urging them to turn around.

Right now, Jesus and I are resting on the trail. Jesus and I have had some great conversations, I have learned a lot about him and he has listened to a lot of my woes. He has comforted me, he has cried with me, he has listened to me, and he has encouraged me. Now, He is getting ready for our next hike. Where is Jesus taking me? I do not know. How long will we be on the trail? I do not know. What I do know is this, if I rely on him, he will guide my path. If I rely on him, I will not be forsaking. If I rely on him, I will survive this journey.

So, I want to know, where are you on your journey with our Lord?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Children and discipleship

I am following the blogs of two women who have recently left organized religion. Recently, both women have asked questions concerning children and discipleship. While they were part of organized religious groups, they both relied on Sunday School to teach their children about God and how to follow Christ. While they both realize that this reliance was always misplaced, they are now wondering how parents should disciple their children.

For example, "a former leader" writes in her post "The Church Lady and Her Un-Churched Kids" that she realizes that she never took responsibility for discipling her children:

Of course we all know that we (the parents) are responsible for their spiritual training. That was always told to us by our churches. I told this to others – partially to absolve the church when their kids turned out bad. After all, you can only claim responsibility when it looks good for you. When it does not work out to your advantage – bail and let them know it was their responsibility all along.

The only problem I see was that no one ever actually really took responsibility that I know of. We let the Sunday School teachers do their job and “presto” our kids knew all about Jonah and the Whale and Noah and the Arc. (In there was probably some really good spiritual training although, to tell you the truth, I never saw how they could take a story about God wiping out the whole human race – every living thing – and teach it to any child who would not run screaming from the room and never love God again. It worked though if you needed people to be afraid of God to obey him. Hmmmm…….)

Of course Church Lady was always too busy to teach Sunday School.
Similarly, Mary from "One Thing is Needed" responds in her post called "Learning the Language of Love". She compares training children in the ways of Christ to teaching people a foreign language. She suggests that "immersion" is the best form of discipleship:

I used to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to international students. What I taught them in class could only go so far, though. I noticed that the students who really excelled and learned the language the fastest were the ones who immersed themselves in the English language. They hung out with English speakers, listened to English music, read English books, spoke as much English as possible, and taught what they knew to others. They immersed themselves in this new language. If they continued like this for a few years, they would find that they began to think and dream in English. By contrast, the students who struggled to learn English only spoke it during class. They didn’t immerse themselves in it and spoke their native language outside of class. They were the ones who were more likely to get frustrated and give up or learn just enough to get by.

What if I applied this principle of learning another language to teaching my children about Jesus? What if, as a family, we daily immerse ourselves in the language of love (love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself)? Our children will learn that “language” much faster than if they only learn it during a weekly church service. If we continue to live this way, they will begin to think in this language and dream in this language. It will become second nature to them. That’s exciting to me.
I think these discussions are very important and very beneficial.

Many have trusted structured times of teaching (such as Sunday School) as the sole method of training their children to follow Jesus. Structured teaching is beneficial to a point. This is true of any type of classroom setting, whether it is Sunday School, or public school, or college, or seminary, or even a structured home school class, or a structured time of teaching children in the home. It is easy to dispense large amounts of information during a structured teaching time. As I said, this is beneficial. However, there are dangers as well. For example, some assume that there is a correspondence between the amount of knowledge acquired about a given subject (i.e. Bible or theology or the life of Christ) and the level of maturity or obedience. This is not necessarily the case. Also, structured teaching easily leads to evaluation based on performance. Thus, it is possible for some children (and adults) to assume that they are better people because they perform well in the classroom, or for others to assume that they are not as valuable as a person because they perform poorly in the classroom. So, while structured times of teaching are beneficial, there are problems that can arise if this is the only type of teaching and training for the child.

Others have turned away from structured teaching and prefer unstructured, unplanned teaching by example that occurs naturally as the children live their lives with their parents and others. I have found that many people (children included) learn more from object lessons - especially object lessons that come naturally during the course of life - than they learn from classroom lessons. Thus, parents teach their children how to trust God by trusting God themselves. Parents teach their children how to love others by loving others themselves. Being fair, however, there are also dangers with this method of teaching. It is possible for a child (or adult) to focus on one aspect of life with Christ, especially if that aspect is more natural for the child than other aspects. For example, a child could learn much about loving others, but very little about trusting God, because either the child naturally loves but doesn't naturally trust, or because the parents model loving better than trusting.

So, perhaps the best way to disciple children (and people in general) is a combination of the two approaches. We have tried to use both means to disciple our children. They are part of almost every structured teaching that we take part in. Also, we try to teach them in unplanned times that come up in the course of life.

Do you take responsibility in discipling your children? How do you disciple your children now? If you do not have children, or if they are very young, how do you plan to disciple your children? How should we plan and carry out structured times of teaching? How do we teach children by example such that they emulate our good examples and not our bad examples? What part does the larger community of Christ play in discipling children?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Life... in the Journey

Those of us who are in Christ have abundant life in Christ. That abundant life does not begin after we die. Instead, we are to live a new life in Christ now. This is not a life that we live alone. Primarily, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and, thus, we live this life in the presence of God, by his strength and enablement, and with his direction. Through this fellowship with God, we also have fellowship with other believers. God forms us into a community in him. This community lives together, works together, walks together, learns together, and grows together toward maturity in Christ.

This blog is about living the abundant life in this journey that we call life. Since we live the abundant life in community, this is a group blog. The contributors to this blog are connected to one another through their mutual relationships with God, but they are also connected through personal relationships with one another. The discussions that take place on this blog are instigators, echos, and samples of discussions that take place in the physical world as we attempt to encourage one another in this journey in abundant life.

We also hope that other people who are walking in this journey with Christ will join these discussions through comments and articles on their own blogs. We will gladly link to other blogs and encourage discussions in the comments. In fact, we also encourage those who disagree with us to join this discussion. We need one another. God placed us all together for a reason. We accept that even those who disagree with us are necessary and important for the proper growth of the body of Christ. So, please take part in the discussion.

Life... in the journey is about love, service, justice, unity, discipleship, mercy, hospitality, finances, obedience, family, trust, leadership, community, grace. We will examine Scripture, books, and other blogs to learn about living life with Christ. We will also share our own stories, and perhaps some fictional accounts, that help us live our life in Christ.

Will you join us in this abundant life in the journey with Christ?