I’ve been ruminating around some ideas with discipleship now for a while, and a coffee break with Rich helped me to find the phrase I was looking for…
Behavioural Modification vs. Awareness Nurture
A traditional model of both youth ministry and discipleship in broader terms, boils down to a set of objectives easily rendered into bahavioural modification theories. Ultimately running the risk of producing ‘disciples’ who are only equipped for navigating through previously simulated experiences or lessons and produced socially acceptable choices. Perhaps a 50% attrition rate has been experienced in my own youth community relying on these more traditional ideals and ways of thinking.
Example: Sex Education
Traditional: Here’s why Christians Don’t / Here’s why you shouldn’t / The Line
Recently: Let’s teach and encourage healthy sexuality & awareness with young people regardless of faith precepts focussed on healthy choices, identity awareness and social cognition of influences, pressure and expectations.
What if youth ministry and discipleship addressed it’s core principles on the long, slow, developmental tasks of emotional/spiritual awareness, social awareness (implications of my community & community identity), self awareness?
One of the ongoing issues we face within our own community is the insistent pressure fo the discipleship timeline.. a series of measuring sticks that address behaviour as guides for spiritual development along the lines of baptism, spiritual information and outcomes like mission service etc.
We introduce people to the character of Jesus and then his behaviours and teachings as a model of behaviour before we teach or encourage the fostering of Wisdom. Jesus, as the embodiment of Wisdom .. only ever pointed us to the Father, yet in the Western church, we find Jesus at the apex of our teaching and worship, rather than the Truth. (I’m not 100% concrete on my ideas here yet, so bear with me).
Around the world the “slow” movement is gaining momentum (haha). But what if we took a slow approach to discipleship. One of the more significant seasons in my life was underlined by a daily reading of Proverbs. A chapter a day, of every month for about 5 years. Once you begin to understand and recognise Wisdom, all of sudden the person of Christ makes more sense.
I guess, I’m really exploring the idea of saying, ok, if Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – how are we introducing people to Truth in such a way that it becomes part of their being, rather than part of their behaving?
So – instead of pushing kids into the Gospels when reading Scripture.. pushing them into the wisdom books, illuminating Christ through that lens first. My understanding being that by manner of approaching wisdom and truth so dominantly we might resettle the scales in favour of a Father-centered worship, through Christ, than worship of Christ.
Slower, longer but hopefully deeper? Wisdom ways of living that help young people or any disciple to navigate their way through any waters, because they are underpined in wisdom teachings rather than behavioural concepts? Jesus’ actions are only truly revealed to us through our understanding of the Truth he was in flesh, and the Father he points us toward.
My suspicion is that too much emphasis on Christ-like living started as a great idea but has lead us to far into Christ the man, rather than Christ the Divine, who never points to himself, but only the Father.