The author sets up four examples of church styles, which he proceeds to demolish before moving on to explain the discipleship approach. It’s a tried and true rhetorical method. But before we dismiss these four let’s first see if they have any value to a living church in our day. Can they be redeemed?
The educational style is first in the dunk tank. I heartily agree with Putman’s critique of lecture as education in the church. One problem he doesn’t mention is that lecture in the church is likely to prove less than effective because it offers no way to evaluate its effectiveness. After all, we give no tests, and if there is no more than perfunctory discussion then the leader has no way to judge his or her effectiveness. Then there is the critique that lecture can offer little engagement with the learners to encourage them to use their biblical knowledge to grow up into true discipleship with all the behavior change that entails. But we know and often practice much better study approaches than lecture. The best teaching has always been life-changing. And even the most “charismatic” teacher could be a hindrance to effective discipleship if he is poorly grounded in scripture and doctrine or if she leads out of pride rather than from an authentic calling. I think Putman is too dismissive of the need for the type of deep theological and scriptural grounding we Presbyterians have called for in our study leaders. And the Spirit does raise up strong lay leaders to supplement the teaching ministry of our pastors. An educational model can be redeemed to serve the discipleship mission.
To be continued Ken Rees