Monday, October 31, 2011

Abducting Jesus (6) - "Artificial Sweeteners" (continued)

I want to touch on one more aspect of my previous post, and this should serve as a nice segue into my next topic, "Kingdom Kids."  Our obsession with "artificial sweeteners," such as Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Children's Church services have led many to believe that these are the places where spiritual things happen.  This entire paradigm is not directed by God or Scripture nearly as much as it is with our own upbringing.  Many adults are used to a classroom learning approach to everything, including faith.  Here is how the question is posed to me, "Now that your children aren't in Sunday School or Sunday services, how do they learn about God?"
Now, I am going to be pretty bold in my response here and I hope every parent listens in closely.  This question is in the minds of many people who leave the IC because they have been so conditioned to think real learning takes place in classroom settings, even though it is both unbiblical and unscientific to think so.

First, Jesus trained disciples by daily spending time with them living life.  They traveled together, shared stories, and participated in "action learning" - in other words, they put into practice what they learned immediately.  Often their lessons took place in hostile contexts.  The foundation of all their learning was relationship!  That's how Jesus did it.  Other rabbis of his day had a similar approach.  After His ascension, the early apostles continued similar practices of passing on the faith.  They performed miracles, shared with each other, broke bread together, and met in homes daily.  They didn't wait for the annual retreat or conference.  They didn't hold seminars with "fill-in-the-blank" manuals for participants.  They lived out their faith in front of one another.  It was raw and it was real and it was radical!  And one other important "R" word - it was wildly reproducible.

Second, the Bible reveals a long history of this relational, real-life, active approach to educating or indoctrinating ("putting the doctrine in") the next generation.  Somewhat ironically, cited in almost every Christian education program is the famous
Deuteronomy 6 passage about impressing God's commands upon the children at home, along the road, in the morning, at night, etc.  Faith is to be passed along in an ongoing, intentional way, not in one-hour weekly doses in an artificial environment.

Third, almost everything that we have learned about the brain and memory in recent years challenges the myth that learning best occurs in classroom settings.  People need to be engaged - physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually.  In fact, the brain filters all incoming stimuli by how it relates to survival first, and emotional impact second, then everything else.  Admittedly oversimplified, this is basically how the brain determines what to give its attention to.  When faith is only talked about in Sunday School or sermons, but not immediately applied in situations that directly affect how people live at home, with their friends, in front of their teachers, while nervous or afraid, etc., then that faith becomes easy to disregard.  This is a biological necessity.  Our brain categorizes it in the unimportant pile of stuff in our head, so it can be dismissed or forgotten without consequence.  That should be a scary thought!

Finally, I would like to go ahead and answer the question as "concerned Christian parents" ask it.  Just how does my child learn about God without going to church programs on Sunday?  Short answer: By BEING the church!  We ask our daughters to pray for us, read the Bible to us, and serve others with us.  We act out Bible stories, use artistic illustrations, sing songs and listen to music, have honest discussions, ask questions, and all those kinds of things you would find in a typical Sunday School class.  The main difference is we do it all the time, in various contexts at various times of day on various days of the week.  The result - they begin to think this stuff is real to us!  They begin to understand that this is true in our home, at our jobs, with our family, and not just in a building once a week where all the religious people talk about God.

One Sunday morning, our family was reading through part of the Old Testament.  We came to a part about the tabernacle, and my daughter (and quite frankly me too!) had some questions about it.  So, we stopped right there, moved the furniture and turned the living room into a temple area.  We figured out how to make a scale version of the whole thing.  We decided together what to use to represent the Holy of Holies, the courtyard, lamp stand, table of showbread, and all the other parts.  We discovered their meaning and significance, and had a lot of fun doing it.  I know, I's not the same as her going to another room on a Sunday morning in a church building and doing a word search about names of books of the Bible, but I guess we'll have to just put up with our inferior way of doing things for now.

Sorry for the sarcastic (almost rude) tone of this blog if it comes across that way, but this is one of the greatest areas negatively affecting the next generation's understanding of God.  It must be addressed! 

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