Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pew Pew

So, I went to a Sunday morning service the other day, for the first time in ages. When I woke up in the morning, I had no intention of going. But while I was praying and meditating, God made it clear to me that he wanted me to go. And after trying to reason my way out of it for awhile, I decided to obey. Why not, I thought. It's been so long, I hardly remember why I stopped going in the first place.

I remember now.

The opening verse--the basis for the sermon--was Ephesians 5:21-23.
21. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22. Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Now, I do not love this passage very much at all (or any of the other ones like it, for that matter). But I tried (maybe not hard enough?) to set aside my scepticism and listen with an open mind. I didn't switch off my mind entirely though.

Putting aside the content (a topic for another time, perhaps), the delivery of the sermon was, for me, a little alarming. The support for the opening verse came in the form of a metaphor. From this brief passage in Ephesians, the pastor asserted that the man of the house is like the coach of a team. He then proceeded to use verses from all over the bible to support the notion that the man of the house is like a coach. He calls the plays (Luke 7:8; 1 Corinthians 11:3), he teaches the team (Deuteronomy 11:18-19), he rallies for victory (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

While I may not hold the pastor's values or share his approach to biblical interpretation, let me make it clear that I do not doubt the sincerity of his good intentions. But the thing is, the initial metaphor--husband and father as coach/wife and kids as team--can't really be sustained that far from the initial passage. Furthermore, if you take away the overarching (and possibly misleading) metaphor of the coach, the relationship between most of these verses (except the one in 1 Cor.) is a bit muddy. Besides that, none of the verses were examined in the context of the passage where they were located (nevermind the book where they were located). And nobody said anything. I didn't say anything. The format of the Sunday morning service does not invite--does not permit--the congregation to say anything. I don't know if that's a responsible way to teach anymore.

Decades and decades ago, when a large portion of the congregation was illiterate, there really was no choice but to have one or more literate leaders to read and explain the bible to the Church. But that's just not the case anymore, and teaching methods and structures haven't kept up with that reality, from what I can see. Yes, one can join a small group (I'd highly recommend it!). And a large portion (though not all) of North Americans can read the bible and study it for themselves. But it seems that for many (if not most) people, the Sunday morning service is a primary--if not the primary--form of biblical education. Am I wrong?

We are all invited to question a sermon individually. I've often heard pastors say not to take their word alone for anything. That we should examine things for ourselves. And I have no doubt that most pastors ardently desire that from their congregation.  But the problem is, we don't really learn how to do that. Researching and studying, in my experience, are difficult skills to learn and develop. And learning about the bible for yourself requires a great deal of researching and studying.

So, how do we foster critical engagement with the Sunday service? It seems to me that either the format and structure of the Sunday morning service has to change, or its role as the primary source of learning needs to decline. Or maybe research and study skills need to be encouraged and taught more broadly and with more depth (and I'm talking for free--outside of postsecondary institutions). Heck, I wouldn't be opposed to all of those things happening simultaneously (and immediately). But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment