Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Post-Course Blues

I've been thinking a lot lately about the value of courses or programs in anything to do with Christianity. Having participated in a couple (YITS), run one (VETAMORPHUS) , and spoken to heaps of people who've been in them-its got me thinking. I guess I've seen a lot of my friends, and young people I've worked with, just walk away from faith at the end.

Now these courses are aimed at providing a solid grounding in faith, allowing space for asking big questions of faith and ourselves, and doing it all in the context of community, yet something is still going wrong.

Perhaps its the intense experience of God-however that's experienced, then the lack of that. People really find God over the course of the year, but struggle to find that God when life changes. People will often struggle to find a faith that is truly their own, not that of their community.

People will experience the deep comraderie from being on a mission team-sharing life, struggling together, learning and journeying together then they come back to church and their spirituality seems to have somehow vapourised?

I think the Church is a lot richer for programs like YITS, VETAMORPHUS, DDP, Short-Term Mission Trips, even stuff like 40 Days of Purpose, but we're still not getting it right somewhere.

Perhaps if our churches were better discipling their young people we wouldn't need a YITS or DDP or any one of the multitude of programs out there.

Or perhaps its a reflection on the consumeristic nature of our society, that when people no longer feel they are getting the right 'product' they take their 'business' elsewhere?

Some might say that of course, the answer is not a program, but community and relationships. I would agree with this, but many programs are centred around this premise, yet still seem to struggle to do their job.

I'm not saying all these courses are bad, but I'm just wondering how we can better encourage people to translate their 'program-faith' into a 'life-faith'??

14 comments:

Roo said...

i think faith is designed to be lived out in community. So the very notion of a 'personal relationship with your loving Saviour' is kinda not hitting the target. We are meant to live our faith in community, not as solo groovers all having our own personal saviours. I think alot of the 'evangelistic' language of the last 50 years needs to be looked at, because it is giving people the impression of this individualistic faith, which is inaccurate and well....not in the bible that i read.

The thing is, those intense experiences are a huge part of faith, where we live in community and are surrounded by other people of faith doing God stuff all the time, thats how the early church existed and spread so rapidly...

Anonymous said...

YITS seems to have a notoriously bad reputation for this. Somehing I hope they are looking at....

Anyway, the same can be said of short term misison trips, coffee shops, Theos, SUFM and basically any form of holiday misison. The big fault in all of them is they are run speparated from the reality of everyday life.

Take YD's Coffee Shop mission for instance. A group of people living together through an intense missional experience. But they are on holidays. Away from there normal living space, responsibilities, family, friends, church and so on. So too, generally, are the people that they are reaching.

When the mission is over and the cold, hard reality of everyday living sets in - school homework, work hassles, family committments - we wonder why we're not experiencing God the same way.

COuld it be that we're getting high on the mission experience to the point that we can no longer see God, and thus experieince mission, in the everyday?

You know, I think this is why the church (established mainly, but emerging/missional too) cops so much flack from it's own people - it is the only group trying to live out faith in the mundane normality of life. And when we don't experience the same high, we get critical and, tragically, walk away from perhaps what could be more powerful than anything else.

Some random thoughts...

Digger said...

Yeah I'm hearing ya there Roo, so much of our language for so long has been so individually focussed, which only supports the consumeristic society we live in.

I was being a bit facetious, but I recently told somebody in class that altar calls were the epitome of consumerism-with the excessive focus on me, and getting me into heaven, and making my life better etc. Was a great conversation!

Digger said...

I don't normally reply to anonymous posters (own up to your own thoughts I say) but yeah you make some good points.

Its strange how YITS has that reputation, because its a course kinda designed to help stop that. But I reckon its even more rampant in churches, but we're prob a little less willing to point the finger at ourselves.

I think one of the reasons there's such a sense of community and strong sense of God on mission trips and camps etc is becuase there's a clear missional aim and directive-ie there's a purpose to them thats bigger than the participants.

Of course we're gonna get bored with and sick of church if we're just going to satisfy our own needs. Then we just become fat little Christians...

Christop said...

In response to the anonymous poster, I think part of the problem with short-term mission trips is that we spend only a part of the year doing what we're supposed to be doing all through the year.

¿johnman¿ said...

i think that part of the problem is that people rely on their communities and what other people think too much and just don't think for themselves enough, and as well as that there is that they may not have an authentic relationship with God.
The other thing i think is about moving from beliefs too convictions, from something that you pick up and carry around till you decide to put it down for others, too something that picks you up and carries you around and for the life of you, you can't get rid of it.
so it's not individualistic or community faith, but something in between that brings authentic faith.

Digger said...

Thats an interesting way of lloking at it John, never thought of it that way before.

And yeah you're right, it is something in between a community faith and individulistic hey, good call.

Saemon said...

i think the problem with short term mission trips, and short term 'discipleship courses' is that they are all about ME.

you can go overseas and help build a school, or assist in a church but all you are really doing is building a monument to yourself, which
(a) meets a short term need in a 'two thirds world' community, and thus increasing their dependance on others; [give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats forever]
(b) makes ther person who went on the short term mission trip feel good about themselves, because they have done their good deed for their life, and can then goo back to their individualistic lifestyles, complaining the church doesn't meet their needs.

People tend to walk about from church (I would hesitate to say their faith) because they can't reconcile what they have learnt and experienced with the misguided reality of a post Constantine church.

As roo said above, the Christian ethos SHOULD be all about the other person - living a life in community, meeting the needs of others.

This is where the DDP is different, because it exists only within a community basis.

PROMO - Information Evening on the 2005/2006 DDP - May 3rd 7:30pm @ CCTC - Applications close for DDP on Friday May 20th 5pm - www.omb.org.au

Digger said...

Yeah but Saemon, the other courses I'm talking about and have experienced are all very community focussed too-and that may be, in a strange way, the problem.

People experience God so strongly through that community, then struggle when they get back to church.

I dunno, in an ideal church, we wouldn't need courses and programs to palm our discipleship off to...

AJ said...

hey diggs-

the idea of discipleship rocks i reckon. thats the way jesus did it, eh. im pretty sure he said 'disipleship is fully sick'.

Digger said...

Na I think it was Thorpie that said that...

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