The Gift of What?!?!?!?!

Many_Gifts_One_Spirit_wide_t_nvI have noticed a trend, especially here in America, that has been bothering me for quite some time. I am not sure where it began, or why, but it seems to be here in full force. That trend is facilitation. A lot of what is to follow is based on observation and conversation with others. It is not at all scientific and some of your experiences may be different.

Most churches that I have attended and been a part of, even in passing, have had some sort of adult education. All of that education shared one thing in common….facilitators. I would like to propose a definition of facilitator form good old uncle Webster. “one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision”. I am familiar with the idea that by engaging in this activity the Holy Spirit has the ability to move and thus we are indeed taught. Let me ask though when was the last time that a group of people with a facilitator walked away from a Bible study with the same teaching? The Spirit is not going to lead us in divergent directions after all. Now facilitation can be a great thing as well, don’t get me wrong. For example, if discussing the consistent Biblical narrative of caring for the poor, a thing which we all agree is there, a facilitator can then help guide vastly divergent ideas and ways of accomplishing this. Where facilitation might be lacking however is if we are questioning if that is really the teaching of scripture in the first place.

I don’t see this as an either or type of scenario. There is a time and a place for everything. If a church has a Christianity 101 class for example, I speculate that requires a teacher. The purpose of the class is not to discuss what being a Christian is at a base level, it is to impart that knowledge. Same would be true of a confirmation class. That does not mean there is not questioning or some discussion, but it means that the primary purpose is to impart knowledge, not discuss knowledge already possessed. At the same time, if the church is having a class about the history of Christian development leading to the creeds, the same would be true. The primary purpose being to impart knowledge, not discuss knowledge already possessed. Likewise, if the church is having an advanced class on practical implementation of the teachings of the sermon on the mount, then, assuming all have read and are familiar with the teachings, a facilitator is in order so that the group can discern what is the best way to use the knowledge of the teachings is.

It seems to me that we have a desperate need for more who have the Spiritual Gift of teaching to be allowed to do so. Christian education in America is terrible in many areas. This is evident when you look at how few people know the theology of the church they belong to in general. It seems almost as if we are allowing facilitators to lead discussions about practical implementation of scriptural truth when we have not laid a groundwork of scriptural truth. There is certainly a need for both teaching and facilitating, it just seems like we, as Christians, are doing way too much of one and not nearly enough of the other.

This is meant to try and start a chat about this and see where it goes. As I said, these are my observations and as such are limited. Please, share yours and let’s have a chat.

You Might Also Like

8 Replies to “The Gift of What?!?!?!?!”

  1. I absolutely affirm these observations. I am a much better teacher than facilitator, which probably speaks to my flaws more than my gifts (lol). But I’ve heard it said from others that “pastors shouldn’t ever share their opinions.” That may be helpful in certain situations; but if we’re afraid to teach foundational doctrine for fear of injecting our “opinions,” then why did we go to seminary again?

    Also, I’m sorry that you’ve had such an awful week. I’ll be praying for you in your spiritual and family journey. Out of curiosity, which church are you attending now?

    1. Right now we are attending a home church with some friends of ours involved in Xenos movement while we dig into the other Wesleyan traditions and what they claim as belief to make sure we are comfortable with them. Later in the week we will schedule a couple of meetings with local pastors for chats and move forward from there.
      Being afraid to teach foundation theology is frightening. Is it any wonder that we have a church that does not know what it believes? In the past several months alone, I have run into educated individuals, many of them seminary grads to be honest, that do not know what the Articles of Religion say. If you are a teacher or pastor in a denomination, there should be some understanding of those things claimed as standards of faith at least.

  2. Wholeheartedly agree that we need more actual teaching.
    One thing I have noticed in children and youth ministries is that we tend to recruit people by telling them that they “don’t have to know anything” to teach Sunday School. We expect the provided curriculum to give them all they need. However, that really isn’t enough and I think the majority of the time the ignorance of the “teacher” shows through. Put another way – it is difficult for someone to get excited about the scriptures and to share that excitement if they don’t actually know anything about the scriptures.

    I do think people are hungry for teaching. I know in all the churches I have served, the congregation has asked me to include a lot of teaching in the sermons.

    Just some thoughts . . .

  3. I think that facilitation is simply a point on the wide spectrum of ‘teaching’. There is, of course, rote teaching – we do this with children and Christian neophytes, to introduce them to the religion and the Bible. Once you’ve gotten past the basics, then it’s time for a more student-driven teaching method, where you ask the student to read and then comment on what he got from the reading. This leads to a Socratic teaching method, and then on to facilitation. Finally, there are scholars ho are entirely self-driven, and seek out other opinions and answers when they are studying a problem.
    Facilitators can be great teachers if (1) the students already have a lot of domain expertise, (2) the facilitator is more interested in driving discussion than in driving their viewpoint, and (3) They have the training and experience to know how to phrase the ‘right’ question at the ‘right’ time. You’re not learning from the facilitator as much as you are learning from your own thoughts and those of your colleagues. The facilitator may not have any understanding at all of the domain, but they can see when a discussion is getting bogged down and needs a new question in the air.

  4. Four years ago, I became so lost and confused I distanced myself from all things church. That is when I stumbled into the Heidelberg Catechism and three very modern books about it. It was my lesson in what all I did not know and understand about basic orthodox Christianity. I wished I had received such clear teaching a long time ago because I was finally introduced to the God worth worshiping. I can finally say that, without a doubt, we have the absolute Best God. One of my favorite teachers was M. Craig Barnes; he wrote “Body & Soul, the first book I read about the Heidelberg. I liked his approach so much I went on to read two more of his books. In the one called “When God Interrupts: Finding New Life in Unwanted Change”, he made this assessment of where the church has gone wrong:

    “…Essentially, the Pharisees’ problem, and ours, is in understanding the difference between knowing God and knowing about God. We easily confuse the two. One implies information, while the other is a vital relationship…Typically Protestant churches are better at helping people know [some] things about God than we are at helping them know God as people who live with him. It should come as no surprise that when Christians really need their faith, if [some] knowledge is all they have, they will soon wander away in search of a God worth worshiping. [The church version will no longer “do”]”

    The words in brackets are my personalization of that statement. Barnes is a Presbyterian (USA) pastor from a non-denominational background. Ironically, I went on to learn that the United Methodist Church is in existence because John Wesley did a masterful job of helping individuals “know God as people who live with him.” When it comes to understanding God, John Wesley is an amazing teacher.

  5. Hope this article reaches Discipleship Ministries and GBHEM. On point.
    Affirm everything both you and Tom said about facilitators. Hope every conference and district has the resources we have here. They are far more gifted and equipped than most of us in what they do, and really don’t need the domain knowledge to lead fruitful discussions. Sometimes they lead us into a single consensus path—sometimes into mutually supportive divergent paths.
    I do not read this article as at all critical of facilitators but observant of the scarcity of gifted and equipped teachers (even the Socratic kind) available to our churches. Certainly we are right in instructing our pastors that disciples are more formed than informed, but still there is some basic information that is good to have as a foundation for our discipleship. Catechesis is not a bad thing. It’s a critical first step that we tend to jump past. It’s just not where one should stop.

    1. I don’t think disciples are formed more than informed, but rather are formed and informed. The Great Commission does in part tell us to teach. We can not teach if we do not know. For that matter, we can not try to emulate Christ if we have no idea what Christ did.
      That said, no it is not really critical of anything, or at least not intended to be. It is just an observation based on what I have seen. Discussion is amazing and I enjoy it a great deal, but there are things that simply need to be taught as well and it seems we are missing those things and thus our discussions end up well off base.

  6. Good stuff. One of the other things I have wondered about, and again, this has been my experience, is where does Wesleyan theology fit into all of this. For example, let’s take Calvinism where there is a well defined stance against this as a proper teaching. Certainly we can learn and understand some of what our brothers and sisters in Christ think, of that there can be no doubt. How far should a facilitator allow delving into a teaching that is recognized as not being proper? Yes we should discuss it. Yes we should welcome all, even if they do not necessarily believe as we do. How far should a facilitator allow that to go however? If someone is trying to defend Calvinism, shouldn’t there be some sort of push back as that is contrary to the teachings of Wesleyan theology? I guess the next question I have is where is the boundary, or is there a boundary for that matter. How far should discussion be allowed to go before it is irresponsible to let it continue?

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.