Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Learning Communities Learn in the Context of the Wider Community

Read the gospels and you will see that Jesus formed a tight-knit community around him to be his disciples, to learn from him, to be empowered and commissioned to continue his work. As such they formed a learning community.

But notice how little learning was done in a classroom. How little was done with top-down delivery, going through stacks of theory. Most of the learning was done on the go, out amongst the people, ministering and in dialogue with those around.

Check out Luke 6. Jesus chooses his closest twelve and designates them apostles. But he doesn't start spelling out what this label means until they come down and join a larger crowd. It is in this wider context, surrounded by need and ministry opportunity, that Jesus looks at his disciples (verse 20) and (somewhat obliquely) maps out their lot.

As with Jesus and his disciples our mission is done in a specific context. We must also realise that we can learn in the midst of that context, and not struggle to be apart from it. It is out amongst the need and ministry opportunity where the Spirit can show us how God works. We would do well to form ourselves into tight-knit learning communities - to support and direct each other in our learning. But that much of that learning will arise in the context of the wider community.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Success Criteria

What was the success factor of Jesus' visit to Levi's (Matthew's) house near the end of Luke chapter 5? Levi was soundly converted ... but we don't know anything about what became of his dodgy friends. Did they join the church? Did they even change their behaviour?

Depending on your success criteria, the time spent at the party could be considered a total failure, a waste of good resources. Since we like (and expect) everything to be measurable, it seems a pretty poor dividend from this 'out there in the wild' ministry. Surely much safer and more worthwhile to be back at the church (synagogue), where it is easier to know where people are at ...

Fortunately Jesus seemed to work differently. Different to the Pharisees, and quite probably different to us church-sub-culture types too. We don't know the outcome, but we can see in Jesus' reply to criticism that he valued the time spent.

As if to prove the point to myself, this afternoon I randomly bumped into a couple who are way out the church that I had not seen for a while, but had been thinking of recently. We sat and had a good chat. I prayed with them. We parted mutually encouraged.