Monday, December 11, 2006

Reflecting on The Great Giveaway

I just finished The Great Giveaway by David Fitch, published by Baker Books. I found it a very stimulating book. His basic thesis is that the Evangelical Church has given away the formation of disciples of Jesus Christ to popular culture. Specifically, we allow the values of capitalism, consumerism, democracy, self-actualization, materialism, and patriotism as found in popular culture to influence our life more than we do the Christ in the Bible.

We form our churches on the model of big business, with our pastors expected to be CEOs, without even thinking about how that changes the focus of the church (as an aside, I know of one church that justifies the multi-million dollar per year salary of their head pastor on the basis of the pay for the CEO of a similar size business!). We give away counseling to psychotherapists, even Christian ones, who are trained to focus on the self as the source of solutions instead of taking the necessary time to see if the problems are sin issues, economic issues, etc., in stark contrast to Christ’s command to die to self. Seems that listening to the voice of someone/thing other than God is what got us into this whole mess in the first place (Genesis 3). The list goes on.

I basically agree with his analysis of the situation, but his solution is equally problematic. He wants to return to liturgy, catechesis, etc. He freely admits that his answers are not necessarily the best, but they are the ones he is using in the church he pastors. He also has some other suggestions, some good, some not as good. I think in some cases he goes too far; in others, not far enough.

<soap box alert>
For example, he wants to change the sermon to make it more relevant and less spoon feeding of propositional truths to hearers. I agree, we should change it, but the best change is to abolish it! We need to have teaching as interaction, not teaching as lecture!

Think about the last conversation you had. Do you remember more clearly what you said, or what the other person said? Exactly! The Socratic Method needs to be brought back into the church (DIALOGOS, in its best Greek meaning).
</soap box alert>

There are a few nitpicky things that bothered me about this otherwise very worthwhile read:
1. Use footnotes, not endnotes! The notes are essential to forwarding the argument of the book in many places. Don’t relegate them to the back of the book.
2. Edit out the department of redundancy department phrases. The book could have benefited dramatically from a heavier editing. The book could easily have lost 50 pages if the editor had made him clarify his thoughts. Of course, that same editor would probably have made him incorporate some of the notes into the text, so the end result would be a book of the same length. : )

But, the book is definitely worth the read. I have already offered it to 2 people, and no, Eisenbrauns doesn’t sell it!

I was catching up on a blog whose RSS feed doesn't work, and ran across this:

Alternatives to monologue preaching
Both the New Testament and church planting movements offer very effective alternatives to the monologue. As mentors of emerging leaders of new congregations, we should be able to train others in these alternatives.

Dialogue. (Acts 17:2; 20:7; 17:11; 24:25) The apostles preferred to “dialogue” with both seekers and believers, both individuals and groups. Dialogue, conversations with a purpose, allow a teacher to answer folk’s questions, allay their fears, inform their ignorance, appeal to their conscience, and help them choose what they will do. Believers are to teach and instruct “one another” (Col. 3:16; Rom 15:14). Dialogue is easier to do in small groups than in big congregations. Since most folks already know how to dialogue with their friends and relatives, doing so is a superior way to share about Jesus and the way of life that He calls everyone to follow.

You should read the rest.

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