Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thinking in community ...

The other day I was talking to a friend about a variety of things including the church. His opinion, and he is not alone on this, is that the preferred mode of teaching/learning in the church, is for a learned man to study a scripture passage for 20+ hours (preferably 40+) and then explain it to others at a weekly meeting.

Why am I mentioning all of this? It has been my conviction for some time, that lecturing is not the ideal way of learning for most people. I put this conviction to practice in my math/physics/computer classes by alternating lecturing with practice time, work on the board time, discussion time, etc. I put that conviction to practice in the classes I take by participating and asking questions. I put that conviction to practice when I disciple, by not relegating discipleship to just sitting down and teaching, but by also making sure that I live out my faith (on this last one, see a great post by Alan).

But I think that this discussion goes beyond the best way for the pupil to learn and includes the best way for ALL to learn. The other day I was sitting in Philosophy class and the professor stated that class discussion was beneficial, even for him, because it helped us ALL to learn. That is learning in community. Think about it this way ...

I stand and state my knowledge. Guido disagrees with me. If I am just lecturing, that is where Guido's learning process and my learning process stops (at least in that occasion). If we are learning in community, Guido states his disagreement. To be able to do that Guido has to think about his opinion and formulate it in a intelligible way. It is also possible that Guido has a good point and in that case I am forced to adjust my views. OR Guido has a flawed view and I then reply to Guido. To do that I have had to process Guido's view, which might be something I have never thought about, and see its impact on my views. After I stated my reply Guido is faced with a challenge to his opinion which forces him to see it from a different perspective and possibly adjust his views. As you can see, learning is happening everywhere in this scenario. Disagreement is not necessary, though. Guido could be furnishing complimentary information.

Consider the following scenario. Mandie comes to the house for supper. As usual we talk about many things and I mention that I have been trying to understand why I think that Eph 4:11 is talking about spiritual gifts and not positions in the church (post to come soon). I am doing this because of a question asked by another brother in Christ while we where learning in community on a Wednesday night home group. Immediately Mandie, who is very interested in women's issues, starts thinking out laud about this passage and the implications of the spiritual gift vs. position discussion from the perspective of women in the church, authority, etc. I, who love women, after all I married the best one out there, realize that I had not even thought about those implications while I was thinking of Eph 4:11. You see what happened? We learned in community. Had Mandie not come by the house or had I been lecturing, this stretching of my thoughts would not have happened.

Should I study 20+ (or even 40+) to understand God's word better. Yes! Should the people I interact with do the same and be allowed to share their thought publicly for maximized learning of all parties. Yes!


Lew A said...


Excellent post. I have been encouraged, and have tried encouraging others, to seek out more relational teaching/learning styles as you have pointed out here.

How do you think this dynamic would work in gatherings of 100's of people? Could it be just as beneficial because more are able to add questions? Perhaps the dynamic becomes too complex and stunts learning. What are your thoughts?


P.S. I look forward to the Ephesians 4:11 post.

Alan Knox said...


This is one of the most important posts that I've read lately. God puts us into relationship with one another for a reason. His Spirit indwells all believers for a reason. Thank you for bringing this up, and I hope this discussion will continue.


Anonymous said...

Pick me I have my hand up! I just love bold Christians sticking their necks out! Faith, without it, what would we have? Nice demostration of practical learning skills... but without the HS, do you really think they will ever be driven to study 20 hours a week or more? Is quality or quantity of time more important in a relationship or is it simply being joyful for having the wisdom that He pours down? No wonder Jesus had to walk to them on the water, they were rowing in circles. Sorry rationalization is for man to analyze everything for proof, all it took the Lord was love. Teach His word and they will follow, don't worry be happy and be blessed.

Maël said...


As Dr. McDill would say, based on his communication background, group dynamics change when the numbers grow much beyond 10 to 15. In large settings there needs to be a little more structure, more humility from the participants, and even more dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I think we see examples of this in Acts 15 where the apostles, elders, and the people gathered. Some specific people spoke, James summarized, and the whole assembly agreed.
I take the wisdom of 1 Cor 14 seriously. Here Paul suggests limiting the number of people prophesying (v. 29), humility (v. 30), and that God is not the order of confusion (v. 33).

Thanks for commenting.

Maël said...


Thanks for pointing out that I forgot to state the obvious: learning in community can only really happen when there is community. According to 1 John 1:6-7, community is created by the Holy Spirit for he allows us to have fellowship with God and with one another.

If you knew me (and you might, but since you did not bother to introduce yourself I cannot make that assumption), you would know that I am continually reminding myself and people around me to be totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. This includes being immersed in God's Word and seeking wisdom as Proverbs 2 states.

Hope to be able to interact with you some more.

Maël said...

With regards to our conversation, let me direct you to Alan's latest post.

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