"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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What makes Teaching or Preaching Useful?
About ten or so years ago, I was attending a conference and heard a speaker say something that not only stuck with me all these
years, but forever changed my ministry – or at least the way I preach and
Before I tell you what he said, a bit of background
may help: the speaker was summarizing the conference’s presentations and leading
us in what he called a “LESS AND MORE” exercise.
It’s a simple exercise, and one you may know: you take
out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, and write the word “LESS” at
the top of the left hand column. Then you write the word “MORE” at the top of
the other column. Then you write down, based on what you have heard and
experienced, any actions or behaviors that
you would do less of going forward, as well as any actions or behaviors you
will do more of from that point on.
It was sometime during his introduction to this
exercise that he said the thing that stuck with me:
does not change behavior is not useful learning.”
At first my mind rebelled against the thought: “what,
there’s no value in knowledge for the sake of knowledge? There aren’t things we
learn in order to be better informed, better educated?”
But think about it: why? Why do you want more knowledge, why
do you want to be better informed? Why
do you want to be better educated? Isn’t the point of acquiring more knowledge,
becoming better informed, or becoming better educated, to help ourselves see
differently, feel differently, and understand the world differently? And if we
do see, feel, and understand the world differently, doesn’t that mean we will behave differently?
That has a huge implication for preaching or
teaching: preaching that does not change behavior is not useful preaching.
Teaching that does not change behavior is not useful teaching.
And think about the implication on a daily and
weekly basis, when you are reading your Bible, when you are receiving some
insight about yourself, and when you are in church worshiping or attending continuing
Christian education classes.
Imagine the difference it would make if, when reading,
praying, and coming to church, more of us were asking ourselves, “so what?
difference does this make?
behaviors am I being called to do more of, and less of?”
that does not change behavior is not useful learning.
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…