Monday, August 07, 2006

Interrelation between the Teacher and Student

I had an interesting discussion this weekend at a fellowship taking place at the house of an elder of the church we were visiting. It was a wonderful time that took place after the worship service; and which included the taking of the Lord’s Supper and the baptism of a new believer. It certainly looked more interrelational than anything that I have experienced within the last couple of years.

An interesting topic arose during the conversation that took place outside in this man’s back yard. I was trying to explain the idea of bringing more interrelation into the worship service format when one of the men asked a very poignant question. He asked something to the effect of, “Are you suggesting that it would be more likely that an interactive discussion taking place between a group of unlearned new believers and one seasoned believer would be more spiritually enlightening than a circumstance where the seasoned believer was lecturing the new believers on the meaning of a text?” I thought for a second and then assuredly answered, “Yes, I am saying that.” Then the man gave a seemingly logical critique. He wondered how it could be more edifying for the unlearned new believers to keep asking questions and critiquing what the Biblically seasoned believer had to say when all that would do is interrupt the wise expository interpretation that could be flowing from the elder’s lips. He brought up the fact that no truly wise counsel on the meaning of the Word could come from those who had not yet read and exposited it. The lack of knowledge of the new believers required that they submit to the lectures given by the Biblically sound teacher and only when well educated would they be able to sit as the instructor rather than the instructed.

Does this man raise a relevant question? Can the principle of interrelation make a difference in the worship service proper, or is it designated only to the realm of small groups and special workshops? Is there room for student to question the teacher? A more theologically ambiguous question might be: Can the new Christian who has not heard the Word offer any spiritual insight to the wise teacher who has studied the Word thoroughly? Let me know what you think.


Alan Knox said...

I am very interested in this post. I hope to continue commenting later. However, I would like to offer one additional question: Is it valid to make a distinction between the various kinds of Christian assemblies? (Does Scripture make a distinction?)

Phil said...

a few thoughts,
it seems a bit of a false dicotomy implicit in your friends critique. Most churches are not one learned person and a load of neophytes, therefore a discussion is certainly more profitable than a lecture format (for example, this blog, not that it is a church, but you get the idea).
Also, new believer does not mean unleanred and unable to think critically. As when Aquila and Pricilla found Apollos, or for that matter Paul before his conversion, both of these are examples that a person may well have a high threshold of knowledge before coming to faith. Also, having little prior religious experience or exposure does not preclude the possibility that a person can add valuable points to the discussion. Some of the best questions I have been asked about spiritual matters have come from people who were in fact no christians. Non christians or new believers often bring in a fresh perspective that helps very much to broaden the discussion.
Also, new believers often have specific questions concerning their faith, which may or may not be addressed by a set of lectures.
Besides the main question here, I think it is important that for new believers discipleship be based on a mentor relationship, not a class environment. A class with lectures of foundations of the faith may prove helpful, but given the basics of our interrelational model, instruction should be done in a relational context, which as we have already discussed is by nature a two sided discussion. And now I'll pass the baton to the next guy...


Malcolm said...

Well said Phil.
For instance, I believe that Timothy learned most of what he knew from Paul. But not by a series of lectures, rather from sitting over dinner pounding him with questions about circumstances that came up that day. And on that note how can learned Christian expositor reply well to a question about a circumstance that they were not present to experience.
On another note, the way I understand it mature Christianity has more to do with a level of faith and less to do with knowledge of apologetics and such. Food for thought.
I am going to bed

J. Glen said...

Great interaction guys, I apologize for my delayed response. Phil and Malcolm, I am fully on board with your explanations. The experiential background of the individual "newborn" could bring a lot to the table in cooperation with the Spirit's guidance within them on a particular subject of scripture or question of morality.

As for Mr. Knox's question, what do you think guys? Is there a definite distinction between types of meetings? Is the "Sunday morning" gathering of believers somehow structurally different to the point that a different set of spiritual guidelines apply? Let me know what you think?

Malcolm said...

I think that it is that different, we made it that way. Is that the best way to have church? No I don't think so. It seems that preaching to crowds was mostly reserved for preaching the Good News, and the disciplship and teaching was much more interrelational. I have a hard time believing that when paul was up all night teaching that everyone just sat there and listened not having any questions. This is even covered when it is made mention that women are not to ask questions in the assembly, whci without getting off the subject leads me to believe that questions in the assembly were normal and encouraged. So kudos to all of the generations of Christians that have deprived us of the right to stop the Pastor in mid sentence to ask for clarity. :)
Grace to you all!

Alan Knox said...

Your post has driven me back to Scripture - thank you! I've looked at how one believer (specifically Paul) spoke to other believers. (Note: I did not examine passages where Paul was speaking to unbelievers.) There are a wide range of verbs used to describe what Paul did. For example, Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that he both proclaimed (αναγγέλλω) and taught (διδάσκω) them (Acts 20:20). However, Paul also reasoned/discussed/dialogued () with believers (Acts 19:9, 20:7).

I mention this Scripture because there is a tendency for me to stress the type of communication which I prefer. In other words, I enjoy a good discussion. I learn from a good discussion. I am encouraged by a good discussion. But, discussion is not the only type of communications.

Apparently, Paul used several types of communication. As I see it (and this is my opinion), the problem is not with structured teaching, but with a lack of any other type of communication. Even though I learn best from discussion, I can also learn from lecture. This is not true for everyone. When we communicate God's word, we should use different methods of communication, just as Paul did.

Thanks again for driving me back to Scripture.

Malcolm said...

Alan Well said, I think that we all fall into that trap in some way or other. We will all project ourselves on others thereby expecting them to react or learn the way that we do. Thanks for helping me to see some of the log in my own eye, as it were.

J. Glen said...

Great comment about different types of communication being relevant for the purpose of teaching. Many lectures are simply extended conversations in which the most knowledgeable people have the opportunity to inform the rest of the Body what they have been taught by the Lord. I'm sure that you as well as the other gentlemen here have all been involved in "conversations" where you or the other guy was doing most of the talking, thus the well know phrase, "don't lecture me."

In Paul's case, as well as in the case of the other apostles, it was necessary for Paul to do most of the teaching and lecturing because he was one of the few men directly appointed by God to inform the church of God's revelation for their lives. Now that those words of truth have been established in an authoritative text, the great dependence on the teachings of a few men that was present then is no longer necessary.

I certainly agree that even now there is still a small portion of Christian's who actually study the Word enough, and live it, to be considered worthy of the teaching and elder position, but our current condition is due in part to the great lack of discipleship that has plagued our churches and denominations for hundreds of years.

What do you think? Am I off base here?

Alan Knox said...

I would suggest that much our current situation stems from the fact that for many years believers have abdicated their responsibility of discipleship to "professionals" - this includes discipling others as well as studying, learning, and living the Word for themselves. Are teachers necessary? Yep. But not the kind that is placed on a pedastal and can never be questioned. Instead, we need more "Bereans" - but that takes discipling...

Anonymous said...

PHOENIX Blog dog:

jt what's up...can the guy who hasn't been to seminary teach a guy that has a thing or two? The obvious answer is " Absolutely". The Holy Spirit can make a trash talk to get His message across. So why not use an "uneducated" Christian, or better yet an unsaved hell raiser? We get way to cocky in our theological academia sometimes to notice what God is really wanting to say to us. I guess the message is as Jesus talked about to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear. I think it's an attitude of teachability.