You’ll all have noticed that I didn’t really post anything last week except for my d-blog exchange with Jesse on the necessity of the charismatic gifts, which is now over and you can read for yourselves. I’m sure many of you will have breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t post at TeamPyro last week because you’re tired of me beating you up over you and your local church.
Yeah, OK: I get that.
Because Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, I’ll change subjects for you slightly. Alert reader Joel Griffith e-mailed me a link to this article about world mission agencies, and it culminates in an interesting list of mistakes, thus:
12 Mistakes Western Mission Agencies Make:I asked the handful of journeyman readers of my blog (which has not fully recovered from my hiatus in spite of my really cool new blog template) to take a poke at this list of 12 mistakes, and I liked the idea so well that I decided to take a poke at the “12 mistakes” myself here at TeamPyro under the heading of “missiology” or some such thing.
1. The Mistake of Starting Bible Schools, Not Universities
2. The Mistake of Only “Salvation in Heaven,” not “Kingdom on Earth”
3. The Mistake of Congregations Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies
4. The Mistake of Whole Congregations in Direct Involvement, Not Professional Missions.
5. The Mistake of Insisting that Devout Followers of Jesus Call Themselves “Christians” and Identify with the Western Church
6. The Mistake of Sending Only Money, Not Missionaries
7. The Mistake of Sending Short-Termers, Not Long-Termers
8. The Mistake of Not Understanding Business in Mission and Mission in Business
9. The Mistake of Healing the Sick, Not Eradicating Disease Germs
10. The Mistake of Thinking “Peace” Not “War”
11. The Mistake of Assuming Science Is a Foe Not a Friend
12. The Mistake of An Evangelism That is Not Validated and Empowered by Social Transformation
As you read this list, some of the items will pop out at you and you will say, “that sounds suspiciously familiar," and other parts will be completely alien to you. And no doubt: you will have some kind of opinion about every one of these randy statements because you are quite an assortment of readers.
So today I’ll address Mistake #1, and we’ll try to make this a 12-part series ...
Is it a mistake of mission agencies to establish Bible Colleges and not Universities?
Here’s the mistake, which is in the presupposition of the question: the mistake is assuming that there are two kinds of education – secular and “Christian”. There is only one kind of education proper, if we define education as “development mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction”, as m-w.com does.
And to get this, I want you to think about something: someone who is a great baseball player obviously plays a lot of baseball. In fact, he probably does more baseball than anything else because he wants to be great at baseball. But here’s the truth: he also does other kinds of conditioning in order to be a better baseball player. He may be a runner; he may lift weights; he may play other sports which have related skills. And some of these guys realize that they aren’t going to be hitting a hard ball with a hardwood bat for the rest of their lives, so they also develop other skills like the ability to speak in public, or run businesses, or manage money, or write copy for sports news, or maybe leadership skills which a coach will require.
So in summary, a baseball player may know baseball best, but he doesn’t know baseball exclusively. He knows other things because baseball isn’t everything even if it relates to everything.
And in education in general, the fundamentalists on all sides of the ideological rubick’s cube make the same mistake: they fence themselves into a pen with other ideological livestock just like themselves, and they all make the same cattle noises – whether those sound suspiciously like the Gaither Vocal Band, or Nine Inch Nails, or David Crowder, or Michael W. Smith, or whatever – and they believe that they have established a culture by which all other cultures ought to be measured. In that conclusion, they start to believe that they are the only ones who have anything useful to say.
But what education ought to be is something a little more frankly humble. But humble toward what?
Well: humble toward the fact that we are all created beings.
Now, the naturalist/atheist is ready to check out of this discussion, because by G... um, by his troth, he’s not created: he’s just part of an eternal universe of matter and nobody made him – or maybe everything made him, and therefore there’s no intention in what he is, so the word “created” is anathema to him.
Yeah, well: that’s what I’m talking about.
Even the atheist ought to have the good sense to admit that he didn’t make himself, and he didn’t spring out of nothing like some kind of subatomic particle: there was something before him which caused him to be born, and then to grow, and then to know something that he knows. None of us are self-caused, and we are a consequence of something prior to ourselves.
And this, dear readers, is a foundational premise of education.
Now, since I have just crested page 3 in WORD here, I’ll not rant too much farther on what education is. I’ll instead apply it to mission agencies and what they ought to be doing when they set up school for missionaries.
Listen: there is a secular counterpart to the “Bible college” which helps line out the problem here. It’s called a “trade school”. And without offending anybody – or intending to offend anybody – there’s a reason there’s a difference between college and trade school. And in order to avoid offending, I’m not going to detail that any farther than this: the key difference is breadth of knowledge and ability to work outside of a narrow band of experience.
It’s a fine pursuit, I think, to “major in Bible” as they say at a 2-year school. But while most people at a bible college are doing that, all the rest of the world is having a radically-different world-changing experience at college (and not all of it good, in case you wanted to ask). But the people in college are (allegedly) reading books which they wouldn’t have otherwise read; they are encountering (allegedly) ideas which are not their own, and testing them (allegedly) to see if they are better than the ones they came to college with.
And if you come out the other end of your Bible college with a very denominationally-informed survey of the Bible and some basic homiletic skills, you have the problem of being connected to no other culture but the denominational culture you started in. And how many lost people (in theory, anyway) is that going to reach?
You know, my pastor coined a term which I highlight at my blog: The Gospel is the Solution to Culture. But what that means is that the Gospel has to come in contact with other cultures to “solve” them or offer the Jesus solution to the people inside that culture.
And the current problem of post-modernism in the church, frankly, is not something which happened 6 years ago when McLaren published a New Kind of Christian. It happened decades ago in the 60’s when Derrida started writing his ridiculous screed and there was nobody in the Christian church who was equipped to answer him on his own terms.
Intellectually, we are a bunkered-down people. It may be nice to have me instead of Dennis Miller, but the problem that we cannot engage the culture because we don’t really grasp the intellectual foundations of the culture has to cause us to ask more questions of what it means to be a people tasked with the great commission.
We don’t have to be the smartest kids on the block; we don’t have to be riding the intellectual equivalent of $5000 racing bikes. But when everyone else has a 3-speed 2-wheeler, there’s no way we can keep up if all we have is our homejob skateboard.
And I dare you in the meta to tell me I have denigrated the sufficiency of Scripture to say that Christian education ought to be more than memorizing the Bible.