Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Apostles' Creed Course?

Daniel Newman outlines a possible evangelistic or Christian foundations course based around the Apostles Creed, in seven parts it covers...
  • God as Trinity, and how it makes sense of the world.
  • Doctrine of creation, God’s purpose for the world, sin.
  • Christ’s full deity and humanity so he can be our saviour, the atonement, its consequences.
  • Assurance that sin and death have been defeated, Christ’s kingship, the coming judgement, the future hope of resurrection and life in the new creation.
  • Work of the Spirit in the life of the believer, making us how God intended us to be, renewing us, equipping us to serve him, what it means to live as a Christian.
  • Brought into a family that is set apart from the world, transcends all social, cultural and racial boundaries, public worship.
  • The need for personal response of trust in the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; baptism for those who want to do this who have not already been baptised; the need to re-affirm this for oneself if already baptised but have drifted.
I like the emphasis and shape of this. I like that it starts with Trinity and moves on to Creation and Christ, the Spirit, the Church and Christian life. At a glance I'm not sure what I'd omit or add to this. 

14 comments:

  1. As a Christian foundations course I like it, I wonder how it would work as an evangelistic course though.

    People are always going to start off questioning why they should believe anything you are going to look at. You have to get over that to some degree at least. Going through a Gospel has the advantage that it has a good degree of historical credibility, and because you are dealing with a whole book the participant can get a feel for it and so come to a conclusion as to what its authority is. More thematic studies like this one give the impression that you are just saying what you believe... and who cares about that?

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  2. I've been working on something similar using the Nicene creed. I'm hoping to use paintings and video clips to help to communicate the content.

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  3. Tom - that I would like to see.

    I guess there are two kinds of evangelistic course, one that's "let's think about big questions of life and here's what Christians say" and the other which is, "you know some Christians and are curious so step inside their world for seven weeks and see if it adds up, feels right and works out"
    (which I think is probably a bit like the difference between the classic CU lunchbar series and evening series)

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  4. I'm not using it with non-Christians, I'm using it with very new Christians.

    It isn't biblical to start with doctrine heavy exegesis for non-Christians (see Acts 17) - yes, we move into it, but not at first point of contact.

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  5. Hmmm. Maybe the first few paragraphs shouldn't be "doctrine heavy exegesis" but Paul hits some pretty major doctrines in his first talk to the Atheneans... if someone is prepared to come to a talk that is trying to explain what Christians believe them its kinda deceptive to not lay things out for them. Yes clearly, yes engagingly, yes persuasively, but show the doctrine.

    Like I say, if you've got people interested through lifestyle, friendship or other events already then I think it is a different occasion to trying to catch their attention via something in culture or big questions.

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  6. Show yes, but this is a knife edge.

    Christians are either too heavy or not heavy enough on doctrinal content. And seems like there are few voices calling a spade a spade.

    If you argue for less doctrine (let's grant that you are justified) then you have put confidence in yourself and not God.

    if you argue for more doctrine (let's grant that you are justified) then you don't care about how people feel/are enough.

    I think that the lack of clarity and agreement on this issue is one of the most damaging things in the church.

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  7. It's probably case by case I'd think... depends who the speaker is, what the occasion is, how well they communicate, and who they're talking to as to how much is good to say...

    What would clarity look like on this issue?

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  8. Sorry this will be a bit of a quick response...

    Dave, you say: "I guess there are two kinds of evangelistic course, one that's "let's think about big questions of life and here's what Christians say" and the other which is, "you know some Christians and are curious so step inside their world for seven weeks and see if it adds up, feels right and works out"

    It may surprise you but I'm not a big fan of the first approach, because I think that the bible should provide the big questions as well as the answers.

    But for the second to work you need firstly to gain a hearing. There are two ways you can do that: engagement or disengagement.
    You can disengage and just present the Christian message as another product on the shelf, one story that we can try on for size - we appeal to its attractiveness and not to truth (I thought a little about those should always be dealt with together here).
    As Christians I think it is our mission to engage and if we don't we actually neuter the message that we are trying to present faithfully by not getting bogged down in where non-Christians are coming from. We not only allow it to be kept boxed up and separate from public life but we encourage that mindset.

    So I don't think it is an argument for balance about too much or too little doctrine (ala Tom's suggestion). It should be all doctrine, and in the nature of the case that will be heavy... but that doctrine has to be doctrine that is thoroughly engaged with the culture and the people but not hermetically sealed in language and concepts that mean nothing to the non-Christian. To do otherwise would be to see more Rwandas and Crusades.

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  9. Agreed - the doctrine has to engage with life, one way or another. Even if you've already won the hearing before you speak, you still have to retain the hearing - so when I talk about being able to lay out Christianity, that has to remain persuasive and aiming to show that this is true and appealing and a story worth staying in for life, rather than walking away from as another product from the shelf.

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  10. Dave K,

    I think you're guessing and making a bit of an unfair assumption when you say, "I think that the questions should come from the bible too."

    The implied meaning is that someone who starts with the culture and questions of the hearers isn't letting Scripture define the questions.

    But that is just untrue. I start with the hearers questions and I start with the bible's questions.

    I don't know if you have ever tried to do evangelism using a doctrine heavy teaching approach?

    Can I give you two reasons why you shouldn't.

    1. It isn't biblical. It isn't the way Paul approaches things in Acts 17. This is the model for mission to Gentiles. Who are you to rip this up and start again, just because you are really into systematics?

    2. It doesn't work. It doesn't produce fruit in the evangelistic sphere. People find it too intense and get fed up. Christians stop inviting their mates to Christian stuff and you discourage hundreds of people from reaching out.

    I've been working in evangelism at the church and parachurch levels as a practicioner and trainer for a few years now and I can see a few direct evangelistic strategies working.
    The courses, strategies and events that are making in-roads missiologically are
    1. Apologetics courses (Alpha/Christianity Explored/Y Course/Culturewatch Course)
    2. Church planting
    3. Reformational communities
    4. Apologetics events

    You might have noticed that "Doctrine Courses" or "Doctrine events" are not on this list.

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  11. I would still contend that the Athens sermon contains a heck of a lot of doctrine...

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  12. Dave,

    Yes - absolutely, but were talking about two different kinds of 'doctrine heavy' here.

    1. 'doctrine heavy' in the sense of 'substantial doctrinal content'

    More of this please

    2. 'doctrine heavy' in the sense of an approach to mission that gives us evangelistic talk titles (and talks & conversations flavoured the same) like, 'How is Jesus the true revelation of God?', and 'God is: both judge and love?'. These are real examples by the way. There is often the presumption that people will be fascinated by passionate preaching (if you have abandoned apologetic persuasion what else do you have???), or the insight of the proclaimed word (right and good - but using this to support the strategy is a logical fallacy).

    So I'm saying less of this second kind please.

    Is that ungracious? We've got to reach them, and we can't have Christians getting in the way!

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  13. In which case, I think we're talking about the same thing. Those titles stink - they're ok as the content but are sucky talk titles. I've seen those sort of titles too - probably endorsed and suggested a few of them too. I'd like to see Genesis/Ecclesiastes packaged evangelistically in ways that are designed to connect with peoples questions and introduce them to the content of the gospel... hoping to spend some of the final weeks of my sabbatical working on that a bit more.

    Hopefully we can have passion and persuasion...

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  14. I think I agreed with Dave that we are talking about the same thing too!

    Of course I may not practice what I preach. I have been involved in a fair amount of evangelism over the last year, and work 9-5 with non-Christians. I know very well that I talk past people sometimes, and don't engage with their questions. I don't think this is mainly down to a poor evangelistic technique as much as a poor understanding of doctrine! Einstein said that you don't really understand something till you can explain it to your Grandmother. That can be applied to explaining the gospel to non-Christians. Similarly I would say that we don't really understand how Christ is all until we see the relevance of Christ to everything.

    ... I think we have been talking past each other to a certain extent, because we've been using words in different way. I think you (Tom) are thinking of 'doctrine' and 'systematics' in a way I don't recognise.

    ... the perils of communication.

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