A Teacher is Many Things

Upon further reflection of Andrew Phillips’ blog (look back several days to find the links), and my own on-again-off-again ruminations about teaching on this blog, I take up herewith a book by Earl V. Pullias and James D. Young.  Published in 1968 by Indiana University Press, A Teacher is Many Things explores what teaching is, identifies some obstacles to growth toward excellence in teaching and then proceeds in twenty-one chapters to sketch out what a teacher is.

I have in some form or other been involved in teaching or preaching on an almost weekly basis for fifteen years.  I began teaching a 7th-8th grade Sunday School class the Sunday after I graduated from high school, and have been at it more or less every week since.  My academic training in biblical studies, church history and theology has been in tandem with my practice of the teaching ministry.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way then, and if I had it to do over again I would.  I’m not doing it over again, but I am back at it again.  I am teaching again, almost weekly, at Smyrna Church in both the teen and adult education ministries.  So this exploration in teaching isn’t now, nor has it ever really been, an exclusively academic interest.

My earliest teaching experience was as a so-called “volunteer.”  I’m loathe to use that word now.  I prefer a member-of-the-Body-exercising-a-gift-of-the-Spirit-for-the-good-of-the-Body-to-the-glory-of-God.  But MOTBEAGOTSFGOTBTTGOG doen’t roll off the tongue like volunteer does.  (I actually do say the word, just not fond of the connotations it has).  Then came a couple summers of youth ministry internships.  Bless them, they confirmed that I had no business in “youth ministry” as I then construed it.  Then came more volunteer teaching until my dozen-year ministry with Central Church in downtown Nashville with seven overlapping years at Ezell-Harding (which was really youth ministry, if you catch my drift).  DCHS was a ministry in its own right, but my teaching there was more indirect.  For the sake of these reflections I have in mind the teaching ministry of a local congregation.  At some point I will likely blog about the ministry of history…its simmering for now.  I remain committed to a local congregation and have no intentions to the contrary…and not just nominal membership, but active engagement in the mission of a local congregation for mutual ministry, worship, study and service.

At one time I may have been intrigued by methods, strategies and what I would call now, clever salesmanship.  But how to be a mature teacher, theologically informed, pastorally  responsible and self-aware…such are my concerns now.   The teaching ministry in a congregational context is vitally important, something I think is self-evidently plain.   But how to move into the deeper waters?  I think Pullias and Young can help here.  Their book isn’t meant for the Sunday School teacher, per se.  It ain’t even religious, dear friends, at least not overtly.  But then again it is, in a much more subtle way, and I am eager to look through it and reflect on it on the pages of this blog.

The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell, RQ article by Samjung Kang-Hamilton

…most of the prior literature has ignored his [AC] understanding of the education of children in the Bible.  This essay will begin to close that gap and suggest ways in which an understanding of Campbell would help strengthen children’s ministry in Churches of Christ today.  The following sections will examine Campbell’s views on (1) the Bible and children, (2) childhood, (3) the nature of education, (4) its purposes; (5) and its methods and  contexts.  his work helps us get past the current practice of treating the Bible as a set of morality tales.

So ends her opening section. Kang-Hamilton lays out a thesis that Campbell’s notions on the education of children offers to the contemporary church a resource for (re)thinking children’s ministry and the teaching of the Bible to and for children.  I’m already favorably impressed, as a researcher who sees many such gaps, as a teacher and a ministry leader in a congregational education ministry, and, not least of all, as a parent.  I will over the next few days post short summaries and excerpt’s from each section of her article. Come back to see what she discovers from AC and what she makes of it for our situation.

Samjung Kang-Hamilton, “The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell” Restoration Quarterly 52:3 third Quarter 2010, 130-143.  For more about RQ, click here.

Come to North Boulevard Church tonight

I look forward to speaking tonight at North Boulevard Church of Christ. We’ll be surveying the story of the Nashville Churches of Christ in the 19th century…Philip S. Fall…Church Street Christian Church…Tolbert Fanning…David Lipscomb and the mission to the emerging post-Reconstruction-era suburbs.  Ultimately, we’ll talk about how our history can inform our mission.  Join us at 6:30 pm in Murfreesboro.

Nashville Churches of Christ History Group on Facebook

Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County.  Here is the first post I made a few days ago:

I envision this community as a place to share common interest in the rich story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville. I am conducting research for a book which will highlight each congregation of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches from the 1820’s to the present…basically the entire movement from its beginning in our city until now. I envision this group as a place to share memories, photos, news and generate discussion and interest. Please join and contribute. Please feel free to contact me directly at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.

The group is open to all.  Help spread the word and generate interest.

How to Treat a A “Sectarian” by R. H. Boll: A Voice from 1917

How to Treat a “Sectarian.”

The sectarian is like unto myself a man–a man, too, for whom the Lord died.  He is plainly wrong in his course.  So was I also once, before God called me out of darkness into his marvelous light.  He is mistaken in many points.  So am I–not in matters as vital, perhaps, yet I find every little while that I have been mistaken in this thing and that, and that God is yet lovingly and patiently leading me out of my misapprehensions.  I may not condemn the sectarians; it is neither my right nor my place.  I may not sit in judgment on his motives and his honesty; One only knows the heart.  I must not strive with him, but be gentle, in meekness correcting him when he opposes himself, that peradventure God may give him repentance unto the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:24, 25.)  Since he has shown a disposition to accept the name of Jesus and to serve him, however misguided his [173] effort, he deserves special regard on that ground.  I must not talk down o him from stilts or from the superior height of a pedestal; men can not be won that way.  I must not take it all out in criticizing; but let me in humble love, in secret places, plead for him before the throne of grace.  This would be something like the right attitude toward the sectarian.  My brethren, hold the truth whatever betide; but hold not the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ in bitterness and vindictiveness of spirit, but, speaking it in love, make it a blessing unto all men.  July 29, 1909.

R. H. Boll, Truth and Grace.  F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1917, pages 172-173.

See Don Haymes’ comments on the previous post and his link to the full text of Truth and Grace on Hans Rollmann’s site.  I suspect this first appeared in the 29 July 1909 issue of Gospel Advocate. Not all of the items in the book are dated like this one; not all of the dated items are from 1909-1910.  It would not be difficult at all to substantiate whether the dated items appeared in the Advocate.  The undated items, however, may be original to this book, previously unpublished, or previously published elsewhere.

Henri on power, love and leadership

Yesterday Josh Graves posted on his blog this quote from Henri Nouwen:

One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power—political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power—even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to power but emptied himself and became as we are. The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all. . . . What makes this temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life (In the Name of Jesus, 58-59).

I agree with Henri that power is an attractive and easy substitute for love.   It is easy, but I don’t think “ease” captures all that is at work here.  It is easy to substitute power for love because it is easy to get a big head.  Such is a peril of being in front, of being visible and noticed and lauded and applauded.  With a big head, folks get confused that leadership=power.   Power is easy and attractive because when it is all about me I must somehow maintain and enlarge this focus on myself to ensure that it remains all about me.   How do you maintain or enlarge focus on self?  Easy…you use power.  You leverage popularity (or at least visibility) into power.  It is a short slide from visibility to narcissism to power.  So begins the manipulation, scheming and conniving.  So begins the politics of self-preservation.

Love, on the other hand, says it is not all about me.  In fact, it is not about me at all…it is about you.  While power strives for the good of self, love seeks the good of another.  Henri’s theological point is well-put: Jesus did not cling to power but emptied himself.  The text underneath this is the hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2.1-11.  Leaders who would be Christian will take seriously this truth not only in word but in deed. I commented on Josh’s post that what makes Henri’s quote all the more powerful (no pun intended) for me is that he turned his back on power for sake of those who in the eyes of this world have nothing to offer narcissistic people.  I find that truly powerful, and I respect it.

Alexander Campbell as a speaker

I’m up late reading…this paragraph caught my eye:

He trusted the common person to comprehend his most seminal and profound concepts.  He did not save his groundbreaking ideas for educators or the clergy, but freely shared them with the rank and file.  He did not have one message for the elite and another for the ordinary folk.  He wrote and spoke as if he would be understood by all.  He was a man for all seasons and for all people.  Whether in a mansion in New Orleans or a coal miner’s shack in Kentucky, his manner was the same.

This from Leroy Garrett, “Campbell, Alexander (1788-1866)” Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, page 113.

This appeals to me because I value the autheticity Garrett’s describes in AC.  In my own teaching, for example, I hold very dear the notion that as a teacher I should try my best to bring the light of my academic study to bear on the task of indoctrination in a church setting.  (I conceive of indoctrination in all of its best senses…I do not use it pejoratively here at all.  If indoctrination is the conveyance of the grand story of God to the people of God…and it is…then I am all for it.  The term needs to be rehabilitated from the practice of “fundamentalists” and rescued from the vocabulary of the “elite”).    I also hold dear the notion that people are people are people are people.  None better or worse, none more or less deserving of my time or energy.  I cringe when I sense that preachers or teachers brush off audiences as  inept or simple or unworthy.  On occasion I have sensed that from speakers and more so, I have heard in person comments like that from preachers and teachers.  How disappointing.

To those who think they have some insight to share, please do so with competence, sensitivity and grace.  Hold the dismissiveness and arrogance, please. Everyone has something to learn…not just the ‘uneducated’…If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Something to think about.  Back to my reading.