The Process of Untransformation

After his year in the UK among the Crowded House, Steve is asking some excellent questions about the way in which teaching and preaching functions in churches.

The normal theory is that ‘good teaching’ makes better Christians but Steve says:

“But as I look around I find myself in somewhat of a quandary. If good biblical teaching is as effective as evangelical ministry and bible training centres say it is, why in general is there not an obvious and qualitative difference in the lives of the people who sit under such ministries, compared with the lives of those people who sit under so called “bad” or “poor” teaching?”

In his next post he goes on to describe the behavioural differences between a solid Bible believing evangelical church and a more liberal church:

“One was a conservative evangelical church replete with a good teaching ministry, while the other was what is often called “evan-jelly-cal” bordering on what many would call liberal, with a (not surprisingly) lower view of teaching the Bible. Yet when it was examined which church had more impact in, and involved itself more self-sacrificially with, the local community and all of its no-go lower socio-economic areas, it was the latter not the former that scored the points.”

I guess the advocates of ‘good teaching’ may well suggest that there really isn’t

good teaching in these churches, but my gut feeling tells me that Steve is onto something important.

There is something about the way we ‘work out’ the teaching we encounter that results in more Christlike lives or not. So it leads to the question that Steve addresses – maybe the issue is less to do with the quality of the teaching and more to do with the way in which is church is configured.

Steve is not working from any empirical data, just subjective observations, but I think he is onto something and asking a very important question.

It begs the question – how we ‘do church’ in a way that actually sees us growing in our Christlikeness rather than our Christ knowledge?

18 thoughts on “The Process of Untransformation

  1. Thinking on this though, I wonder how often we blame the leadership and teaching of churches on our spiritual welfare.

    We blame them for the teaching or leading and take absolutely no responsibility on our spiritual welfare.

    I think this issue encompassess more than just the teaching, but the surrounding people in the church and ministries as to how the teaching gets put into action.

    It’s always easier to criticize others for not doing their job than to look at ourselves and see what we are doing with what we are being taught.

  2. Where do you think contextual bible teaching is working in Perth? Upper socio-economic demographics are just as difficult to gospel amongst (harder in some respects…)?

    The parable of the Sower gives me hope that though some refuse, and some are superficial, and some are tempted away, some on hearing the Word and seeing it lived out will bear fruit. So I keep going in gospelling my community


  3. For me it hangs on the definition of ‘good’ as well as how you measure effectiveness (and even if you should).

    For some, good equates to hermenutical correctness or depth regarding the text, or how well the teacher/preacher is able to keep the crowd’s attention. No doubt that is part of the whole – yet we miss so much when we negate relational dialogue, learning by being with and observing, rubbing off on each other. Remember the early church were pretty busy dodging spears and being lit up like torches to concentrate too heavily on “good teaching’. Their ability to influence the world around them didn’t seem to be hindered too much.

    It has to be so much more than didactical.

  4. Hamos point…

    “maybe the issue is less to do with the quality of the teaching and more to do with the way in which is church is configured”

    I agree.

    The mission of the church needs to be at the forefront, not what has been the traditional model, the word, given out on Sunday.

  5. What about the Holy Spirit in all this. Yes you can have great teaching/preaching and peoples lives ar not changed. I may be misunderstanding what is being said here, but the focus is often on the form, structure, configuring etc. Surely it is when we are moved by the spirit of god that change will come, as we pray, obey the word, walk according to the spirit. I have read that when Charles Spurgeon finished preaching a sermon the congregation would sit in silence for 15-20 minutes in awe of gods word. Most people today would have forgotten what has been preached by the time they leave the building. Maybe we have truth but no unction of the spirit.

  6. Hamos point…

    “maybe the issue is less to do with the quality of the teaching and more to do with the way in which is church is configured”

    Can’t help thinking you’re on the right track.

    If a church does the majority of its teaching using a ‘configuration’ in which one salaried, professional man stands at the front does his job and speaks to a largely passive audience congregation, it is hardly surprising that there isn’t much obvious change in behaviour, no matter how sound the teaching is. Every pulpit/lecturn/etc should be engraved with this motto:

    “Keep on treating your congregation like a passive audience …. and that’s just what you’ll get!”

  7. All food for thought. I guess I can add something seeing the original is from my blog. Hey Gav I do agree that our job is to sow and let the Word implant itself by God’s power. But what does sowing look like when it comes to the Word? Perhaps it also involves those who teach being proactive in creating space for the word to be lived out in a community in ways that we might be able to measure because, upper-socio economic or not, all Christians have a blind-spot in application of the Word due to sin. I believe it is only when Word and practice come together that the blind spot is illuminated.

    I am going to write about this too – so I won’t steal my own thunder, but I think qualitative difference expresses itself counter-culturally to the setting in which we find ourselves. Sit down together and ask yourselves what are the hardest things to do in your cultural or socio-economic settings. What are the ways of living that the culture will most resist or find offensive/unreasonable to their established patterns and chances are you might be close to discovering how you should enact the gospel as a community. Chances are too that you will meet resistance from the congregation because their own fallen-ness will have embedded the values of their surrounds more deeply into them than they realised. Surely that is exactly what was involved in both the massive explosion of the gospel across the Roman Empire, and its subsequent persecution – “they’re not like us and that’s a threat to us.”

  8. Yeh I think you’re right Hamo, I think it’s more than just good teaching that helps people to grow. I think it may be more about the DNA of the community than a good teacher. A DNA that is about listening and applying and humility / teachability. To be honest, it shouldn’t matter what we listen to, if we apply humility and use Godly wisdom to discern correct theology we could probably grow through anyone’s teaching couldn’t we? This then is more about the character of the listeners than the gift of the preacher.

    If I was under a model and leadership that showed humility and a spirit to learn in all circumstances, I bet I would soon want to grow and learn and let it affect my character?

  9. sounds like my favorite theological debate, Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

    To what extent do i let the spirit change me, and to what extent do i change myself?

  10. First, I believe Church should not be about structure and configuration. She is the Bride of Christ and should be about love, passion, and commitment

    Unfortunately structure and configuration become necessary whenever humans gather together (you know for order, accountablity, and what not).

    We have forgotten how to love one another. But that is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

    I’ve been learning about Sternberg’s love triangle and reading John’s writings and trying to fit Sternberg’s theory into the church as y’all have been discussing. Sternberg’s theory says that Intimacy + Passion + Commitment = Consommate Love. If we apply this to individual Christians, individual churches, and the entire Body of Christ we might say that the transformed Body of Christ is in a state of Consommate Love. Meaning as the Bride she would be ready for her Groom. However, that time has not arrived. We still have lessons to learn. Some of us (and churches) are in various stages of learning how to love:

    Passion Alone = Infatuated Love

    Intimacy Alone = Liking

    Commitment Alone = Sterile Love

    Passion + Intimacy = Romantic Love

    Passion + Commitment = Fatuous Love

    Intimacy + commitment = Companionate Love

    We can only learn to love again through the Holy Spirit.

    Which brings me to my second point, teaching and learning. We have different learning styles. The teachers should take that into account and the learners need to be responsibile for understanding how we learn. I am a backward learner and I like to experience things first and then apply the labels (connect to the stories) I like interaction and I don’t like setting in lecture without being able to say anything (sharing). I like to fully engage and experience a truth in order for it to become a part of my behavior. Sometimes that happens quickly, sometimes that happens over the span of many years!

    Finally, the structure and configuration must enter here and that will have to be figured out by church leaders through a loving relationship with the Holy Spirit, the individual Body of Christ, and the mission field in which they are called to serve.

  11. “When you find this perfect environment , please let me know”

    Too euphoric Lesley? Unrealistic?

    Hey Roo, not up with the ism’s but isn’t that saying the same thing?

  12. It’s not a case of looking for a perfect environment – it’s a case of taking what it means to be the body seriously enough that we invite people to speak into our lives on a daily basis. To say it’s about a perfect environment is an easy way to dismiss it as something unachievable. What I can say about my time in TCH was that it was a NORMATIVE experience to speak biblical truths into each other’s lives during the ongoing stuff of life. That’s a culture that, while hard to create, can be created.

  13. Steve, Glenno , sorry I am probably being a bit synical with my “perfect enviroment” . I guess my experience has been that people can say that they want to take what it means to be a body seriously but when it is lived out its perhaps too messy. Leaders say they want congregations to be open and honest until it happens. They dont want to hear about anything your not happy about or dont agree with and when they do listen they will often try to get you to see that you dont really know what you are talking about, and you come away thinking why did I bother. The most comfortable place I have found to express myself is in my home group . We have been meeting for about 10 years and have become very open with each other where we do speak biblical truths into each others lives, its been a blessing. I know this kind of openess would freak some people out, perhaps thats why we dont attract a big crowd. I have been a christian for 20 years and have seen how speaking into peoples lives has become a thing of the past. Has christianity become more individual (as in I will do it my way) and less corporate(functioning as a body)?

    Roo, I think I am happy to let the holy spirit change me, through whatever means he wishes to use , trying to change myself has been impossible

    I need the savior.

  14. Calvin states humans are totally sinful, and unable to come to come to God of their own accord, Aminius states humans are stained by sin, but able to chose to come to God.

    When we start to hear of dependance upon the spirit, it is a calvinistic position, where we are unable to take any action for ourselves that leads towards salvation. If we say people are able to take steps themselves to become more Christlike, that is an Arminianistic position…

    I think 🙂

  15. Not only Calvin but the scriptures state man is totally sinful. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of god. Can we choose to come to god? I would believe that only as he opens our eyes to see the truth, but we are not robots. To quote the words of a famous hymn:

    Long my imprisoned spirit lay

    Fast bound in sin and natures night

    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray

    I woke the dungeon flamed with light

    My chains fell off my heart was free

    I rose went forth and followed thee.

    May god alone recieve the glory for the salvation of man in what has been accomplished thru Jesus Christ his son.

  16. The balance between all of the aspects mentioned so far is learning to love one another as Christ loved us and allow that love to motivate us to do love in the world as Christ did. It is a hard thing,because some of us come to the doing first and some of us come to the loving first. Motivation involves the body, mind, and heart working out a sycrinization with the Holy Spirit. It shifts around at different times in our lives as we grow and are transformed by the Holy Spirit. The same applies to the Body of Christ on a macro level. It’s a process of transformation and there is no perfect place only sanctification through Christ as we seek to do the will of God.

  17. illuimating blindspots and tearing down strong holds of our culture is exhausting…I just taught on the 4th commandment Legalism or lawlessness which blindspot do you want to pick?

    Sunday sport or silent meditation? Fight the good fight? Gav

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