Sunday, December 31, 2006

the Christian mind

about a year ago my friend Cathy & I went to hear Donald Miller speak (author of Blue Like Jazz...). he was speaking to a group of college students. i was blown away by his ability to share the story of the gospel like a poet would--and his audience was captivated. i turned to Cathy & remarked on this, and we wondered together how the college students were themselves going to be able to learn that skill.

there is a generation of us that grew up with much modern teaching--orthodox beliefs, apologetics. we were a literate generation--less literate than our parents, perhaps, but we still grew up in the era of network television and without mtv. we grew up without the internet, without many electronics. our imaginations were stimulated by mere words, and our past time was often reading or imaginative games that we created ourselves--because those were the only options we had.

but the generation that comes after us--the mtv, IM, podcast generations, these are the generations of the illiterate. yes, they can read, but most do not read to learn, to explore, to expand their minds. they read only when they have to, and are very disengaged at that. if you doubt it, ask any educator who's been working over the last 10 years. even at my law school, the professors have seen a dramatic drop in reading and comprehension abilities. and we haven't even touched on the lack of an attention span!

so Cathy and I asked ourselves who is going to come up with a way to teach this generation what they need to know to really share the gospel--really interact with their peers, based on the foundation of orthodox faith and doctrine, yet able to communicate on the post-modern level, able to tell the story of God.

today i went to a session about apologetics for the post-modern person by James Emery White. amazing scholar. his solution to post-modern apologetics is what he calls a "Christian mind." a mind that is literate in culture and ideas, a mind submitted to God and educated in the origins of western thought. he claims, along with others before him, that the battle for culture and souls is fought in the marketplace of ideas.

and i just sat there thinking that surely all is lost then. if literacy is all we have as an option, then we have already lost this generation to a spirituality that does not have anything to do with God. because this generation will not read. sure, there may be some who choose to educate themselves and enter the upper eschelons of educated society, and influence culture on a meta-scale. but by and large, this generation will go to their graves without knowledge of the living God because their peers will not do the work of developing a "Christian mind."

so what should the church do, then? is all lost because this Christian mind was not developed in our Christian families, in our churches, even in our Christian educational institutions?

i don't know. i don't have another solution to this problem yet. i want to believe that the story of Christ and his blood can be told, a person can answer the "so what?!" question to the Christian story, and this generation can come to Christ. but how?

what other options do we have?

Friday, December 29, 2006

social justice

today's students seem to be incredibly socially aware--educating themselves about AIDS, poverty, global warming, & other environmental concerns. and probably as with just about anything else, more students are talking about it than are actually doing anything.

still, i think it's safe to say that students are aware of these issues. maybe it's true that the entire generation has this awareness, and not just the students. at any rate, i think that it's safe to say that the church/followers of Christ will not be respected if they do not care about these issues. put another way, a group of Christ-followers that is involved in doing something about social issues will gain immediate respect and will have a voice in today's culture.

social justice will never replace sharing the message of the gospel. but social justice lends authenticity to this message. it brings the love & live of God to that incarnational level--meeting people where they are at. it puts skin on the values and character traits that God possesses. it becomes the platform or the common ground from which we are able to speak.

but let us be wise as we begin to enter in. let us choose to seek the underlying problems, & not just the symptoms. let us educate ourselves, and use the innovation that is unique to our culture. but let us also not forget to act within relationships. let us not forget to enter cultures and problems first as observers and learners. and let us always seek to be led by the Spirit in all things.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

inductive study

one really interesting connection between law and faith is inductive study. when i started law school i couldn't believe how my practice in hermeneutics & inductive study helped me to learn to read cases. and now that i've been inductively reading cases for a couple of years, i have learned a lot about how to inductively study the Bible.

this morning we sat in a room of almost 200 students and did inductive Bible study together. we did it in a big group and in small groups. we were encouraged to observe, then ask questions, then try to answer them, and always to apply what we'd read & learned. the teacher didn't give a lecture, but led us through the process of reading and studying the scripture to learn what it says for ourselves. it was great. and people were engaged. and he didn't just let anyone give an opinion that was wrong, and let that fly... we weren't making the passage say just anything. when a student said something that was clearly deductive--a reading of his own opinion into the text--that student was corrected. so i think that the dangers that are often seen in small group studies as opposed to lecture can be worked around.

i think it's easier to go from inductive study to application than from lecture to application. if it's true that the point of gaining knowledge about God is to apply what we know, then that's important. when people inductively study and are involved in the process, then they are already active. it's way easier to go from that to asking "how does this apply to my life?" and then to actually apply it. at least it's easier for me.

i've got to be honest, i spend so much of my life listening to lecture, that i disengage when i'm there. i don't listen to sermons. part of it is just that i am inundated with noise and information from all sides all the time. it is not an effective way for me to learn or to be challenged to grow. but i love to study, i love to use my mind to draw conclusions, i love to make the jump from knowledge from application.

i suppose that someone might say that that's just me--that i'm built mentally to do that kind of work, but that not everyone is. and that may be true. but how many of our churches are made up of educated people, people who are more than capable of understanding the process of inductive study? and how many of us, with just a little help, could learn to use the vast resources that are available to us?

wouldn't it be better then, to teach that way in our churches? to equip people to actually learn and grow on their own and in smaller communities where there is accountability & space and time to learn and grow?

i don't know. but as i re-imagine church for our emergent service, and as i think ahead toward being involved in church development and discipleship, i want to remember that this is an option. i want to remember that because of the education level of the church in the US, because of the access to information, we can do community learning in ways other than one person getting up to speak every Sunday. in fact, it just might be more effective for the younger generations.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

remembering mission

there is a whole generation who waits--they are waiting to leave their mark and to see the word change. they are waiting and looking for a wold that bears the mark of the impact of God--of his Spirit. And they see beyond borders, nationalities, ethnicities, philosophies.

and why not? they are the first generation to grow up where those things that separated the generations before became irrelevant. air travel, technology, the internet... we truly live in a global village.

i got on a bus this morning to travel to the Urbana student missions convention with a bus full of college students. i was amazed to hear how many of them live with mission, seeking to change the world for the kingdom of God. unfettered by life's mistakes, and even adult responsibilities, their futures stand open before them, pages yet to be written.

and i am amazed. in my small corner of adult life, in a religious town where few have vision beyond their own backyards, i forget.

i forget that i am not the only one who sees a whole big world out there. i forget that i am not alone in believing that God wants to reach the world with the hope and truth of his love.

and i remember. i remember that what seems impossible and impassible for one person--one Christian even--is more than possible with God, if only we can see each other and work together.

and i am stunned, again, at the enormous potential that this generation possesses to change the world. and i want to be a part of it.

and that's why i am at urbana again. i am not willing to leave behind the idealism and mission i found in my youth. i am not willing to resign myself to believing and living like my corner of the world is the only one there is, or that the small insignificant details of life are all that life adds up to.

and so i'll pray again for God to move in me--to show me what he wants me to do, where he wants me to go, and who he wants me to be. i'll remember mission, and i will recommit my life to it, so that in this time of decisions, i will not settle for less.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

digging out & shredding it up

so i just spent three days cleaning and organizing my whole house. i totally rearranged my bedroom & moved my desk into my roommate's old room. i created files for a bunch of paperwork that's been just sitting around waiting to be organized. it was SO MUCH WORK. it was like moving. i hate moving, and i now think it's because i have to deal with all the little stuff that accumulates during life.

like what is it with paper? magazines, junk mail, documents from vendors. it's all over the place. i filled 4 trash bags full of shredded material. we're talking about a solid 4-5 hours of shredding paper. i must have put about 14 bags and boxes of junk in the trash. it's just the stuff that you don't really need, but somehow finds its way into your house anyway. ugh. but now if i move sometime next year, it should be relatively painless. i've just gotten rid of just about everything that i don't really want around.

so anyway, now it's time to relax for a bit. i get to see a good friend tomorrow. then i'll go and visit an old friend on friday. those should be really enjoyable times. i haven't done any thinking. i haven't even done any reading. funny, since i read 5 300 page books during the last half of exam week. but now i really feel like i can relax. i've got my life back.

and i'm off to Urbana right after Christmas. it should be a great conference, and i'm looking forward to having time to process and think and pray some more about my future. it's always such a great time of hanging out with like-minded people and being exposed to interesting thoughts and opportunities. can't wait! 7 days to go.

i'm hoping to have more to say when i start pondering things again. i just need a short mental break while i have the chance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

final finals

exam week is the most relaxed week of school for me. odd--i know. but true. i do all my reading in the first 10 weeks of school. then i spend the next 4-5 weeks just studying. by the time exams come, i just want someone to hand me the test so i can take it. i've studied so much i'm tired of the material. and i get the test it's like a game--how can i show off everything that i know within the context of the test?

this semester i wasn't able to get as much studying done in my normal sequence. so it was just today that i got to the point that i can't stand to spend another minute studying. it's much better timing than than normal because i have my first exam tomorrow night. the last exam will be friday night. and then i'm done with exams for the rest of law school. crazy.

so it's the night before the exam, and i'm sitting here not doing anything. i could start a book, but then i'd have to finish it before i go to sleep, and i don't think there's enough time. i could start on some of my after-exam projects, but i am supposed to be resting & reserving my energy for exams. so i'm not sure what i'm going to do tonight. i hate feeling like i'm wasting time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

early december update

well, i got a job for after i take the bar exam. yay! i'm going to be staying in my city & working for the state court of appeals. i'm excited about the job, and excited that i don't have to think about it anymore. now i can just concentrate on exams, the bar exam, and other things in life.

speaking of exams, next week i have my last 2 law school exams. next semester i have all practical classes--no exams there. i am so happy about this. i haven't particularly enjoyed my subjects this semester, and i'm looking forward to getting to the just plain writing and practical application of the law. i think my summer job spoiled me a little bit, because i got to see how the law actually works. that is much more interesting than just memorizing general legal concepts. so... all is well.

our new church service is in something like its 11th week. we've been having a good time. i can't say that it's exceptionally different from a normal, traditional service. i think we have more time & space for reflection. our communication style is to tell stories. we try not to be too presentational (as opposed to interactive). i think that we're forming a kind of community. we're living out the values that we speak as a group. we're working on getting people involved in the community. all really positive things. and i enjoy being a part of the leadership team.

but to tell you the truth, i'm not sure that i would go if i weren't in leadership. this has nothing to do with the service--if i was going to go to a service, i would definitely choose that one. it's just--i am not all that interested in the service time. i really just want to live life alongside other people. it's really hard to do that in a service because they're so big. and they tend to be focused on a speaker & what that speaker has to say.

many times in my life, God used speakers in services, camps, and special events to speak into my life. so i'm not discounting the value of those things. but it does me very little good to hear new information if i'm not putting it into practice. and it's easier to put it into practice among a group of people who are all walking the same direction.

so anyway... i don't know what to think about that. i don't know if it's a phase in my own life, a reaction to the organized/institutional church, or something else. but it's kind of where i'm at at the moment. that might explain why i'm a part of 2 different small groups at my church, and why i think of our times of teaching & fellowship of more like church to me. at any rate, i'm glad that i have so many great relationships with people there.

alright--i'm off to class. i'll try to post again soon.