Sunday, January 21, 2018

Guide on the side. . .

It was one of those emails I probably should not have bothered to note.  It was telling me how I could become a better teacher, what I should do and what I should stop doing.  It was this that caught my eye.  Don't think rows. Think circles. Don't think of yourself as the sage on the stage but as a guide on the side.  Hmmmm.  Guide on the side.  Wow.  It rhymes.  It must be right.  I must be all wrong.  According to the online dictionary, guide on the side is an An educator whose method is to provide students with occasional advice, assistance, and correction while allowing them to explore a subject area independently or by interacting among themselves.

There is surely no educational idea more relevant to the moment than the thinking which says teachers are not really teachers, teaching is not really teaching, and class is not really a class.  It seems that we work very hard in education today to replace the idea of students listening while sitting in rows writing notes.  It is so marvelously passe and quaint.  No, today we try to mask the fact that this is a classroom and that learning takes place here.  It is a fun place, a place where we explore, where everyone's opinion is of equal value, where there are no wrong answers, and where the process of getting there is just as important, if not more than, the final answer.

Churches have long ago adopted this very ideal.  We don't have classes in classrooms but we have study groups in which all the sacred tenets of modern educational theory are the standard rules for what happens there. We don't have teachers either but coaches and guides to help us find our own answers, discover our own truths, and arrive at our own conclusions.  Except that our own answers, our own truths, our own conclusions, and our journey there is all for show unless Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Pastors are not guides on the side but preachers and teachers of Him who is the Way.  Their ministry is not coaching or guiding but preaching and teaching the Kingdom.  In the end, it may be a fun diversion to talk about what we think or feel or conclude but that is but a bump in the road.  The road itself must be the Way that is Christ or it is a journey to nowhere.  But it is precisely a journey to nowhere that is taking place in many churches under the presumptive title "Bible Study."

For what it is worth, all our attempts to reinvent education and make it seem less like school have not exactly borne great result.  Our kids have suffered greatly at the way we have tried to make over what happens in school.  In the end, using the exact same technology they use to play games and connect on social media may not be the best way to teach what they need to learn.  We have confused self-esteem with wisdom and forced the school to socialize those who should have learned this at home.  We have made entertainment part of the curriculum and forgotten that wrong answers are still wrong answers even if we enjoyed the process of arriving at those wrong answers.  Churches have less time than ever with children and adults and we can afford even less the distractions and diversions that characterize modern educational theory and method.  In the end it matters less what you think of Jesus than what Jesus thinks of you.  This is where faith is born by the Spirit.  Why do we forget what St. Paul says:  Faith comes by hearing. . .

So in the end, I am not a guide on the side.  I am a pastor.  I am here to preach and teach the Kingdom of God.  If I fail to do this faithfully, it is no small problem.  That failure betrays my vocation as a pastor and you, the people of God and those just learning of Jesus Christ, will suffer eternally for my failure.  Guide on the side?  I don't think so. . .


Anonymous said...

"Guide on the side" is too clever by half.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the root of much of this foolishness is our warped view of "equality." We have made a god out of "equality," the idea that everyone is exactly equal in every aspect. We think it wrong to value one idea over another, one "truth" more than "another truth."

This has many ramifications. In the political arena, we insist that "all cultures are equal," even though anyone with eyes can see this is not true. We are mightily offended when the President uses a vulgarism to describe an obvious fact, because this is contrary to our god of equality.

Why should we expect it to be any different in religion? Why should a pastor with several years of post graduate education and years of experience know any more about God and Faith than someone who spends all their time playing video games in the basement? We demand that all are nothing more than opinions, and all opinions ae equal.

Of course, it is rather odd when we get to sports. I have never been able to run, jump, or throw a ball worth a hoot. I was always the last chosen for a team for good reasons; I was a liability rather than an asset. Yet no one questions that many members of other races are far superior to me in these critical athletic skills. That just the way it ought to be, or so they say. What happened to equality?

We now value "equality" far more than "education," and "feelings" far more than "truth." We are a degenerate people.

Fr. D+