I’d intended to promote the re-release of Searching for God Knows What this week, but haven’t gotten around to it because I’ve been thinking a lot about church. And apparently so have you considering the number of comments on yesterdays blog. Essentially, I asked if modern churches were mostly educational communities, spiritual community colleges, seminars or schools, and whether there was room for churches to diversify the learning experience without leaning so heavily on the lecture model. Your responses were terrific, eye-opening for me and remarkably objective. I couldn’t just let the conversation hang. I’m wondering if we can dream for a bit. I think a number of pastors and leaders might get a great deal out of this conversation, if we could just take it one step further. So that step involves this question:
If a church decided to go a period of time without a sermon, a sunday school teaching or a seminar or “traditional” Bible teaching of any kind (sitting down to study the book in a classroom style) how would you teach people about God and how would you teach them right theology?
I have a couple suggestions that I’ll throw out as examples of the sort of thing I am talking about, but I am hoping you will add even more suggestions in the comments.
1. Your church could plant a vineyard and grow grapes. You could do a study of the farming metaphors in scripture, teaching people bits of Christ’s parables that relate to soil, growth, dependence on God, the fermentation process of making alcohol, the celebration of new wine and so forth. You could even have a Jewish wedding at the end marking the first miracle that Christ performed. All of this could be translated into actual life lessons people could apply each week. You could bring in an outside vineyard steward to help with the process, and even teach about soil and conditions for growing.
2. You could figure out the jobs of each of the apostles and characters that interacted with Christ, and send different groups from your church to different locations each sunday to learn about fishing, carpentry, baking, and even tax collecting, and each week the congregation would learn how a person from that profession might experience and understand the gospel.
3. You could transform part of your church into a different country and culture, and each week people in your church could visit a culture where the church is doing mission work and so better understand how the reach of your church is global and how the church itself cannot be contained by a building.
4. You could recruit hundreds of non-believers who would be willing to come to your church and sit down with your parishioners for conversations about how they see and understand Christians. You would allow your church members to ask questions, but challenge them not to try to convert anybody, but rather to listen to somebody else’s perspective.
5. You could set up a multi-week experiential “game” in which members of your church try to get themselves and their families out of slavery only using limited resources, helping people understand the plight of millions of people around the country.
6. You could send out a mass e-mail saying that the actual building of the church will be completely closed for one month, but that the church must go on, and let the church itself (not the staff) figure out how. The staff could be on call 24/7 to serve the church in any way it needed in order to keep going. At the end of a month, you could have a huge dinner and allow people to share their experiences and see what the church had collectively learned, and whether people felt lost or empowered.
And the list could go on and on. So, what are your thoughts? What could churches do to create experiential learning paths that make church feel less like a school or a seminar and more like the world in which people live? In other words, how could we better throw people into a life of faith, rather than help people simply think about faith?