Kingdom Living

Kicking the Can of Impractical Paradigms

July 6th, 2011 · No Comments · Christianity, Church, Church of Christ, Paradigm Issues, Religion

I had a conversation about education with the principal of our Christian School this morning. She mentioned that well over 100 years ago our education system determined the order of certain subjects by alphabetical order. She said that is the reason they offer algebra, geometry and trigonometry in that order (and also biology, chemistry and physics/physical sciences). That isn’t a bad thing all by itself but her take was that some researchers are saying that the order does matter due to what students are able to conceptually grasp at different ages and stages.

It is possible that the reason the education system is resisting changing these orders is because they are overly invested in an inefficient and impractical model. If they put geometry before algebra, which makes sense from a learning perspective, the students would learn better but they would have to revamp all the standardized testing. So they don’t touch it. If a principal decides to do it the right way where kids learn the most they are punished because their students won’t be ready for the nationally standardized tests and they will get punished. So the powers that be kick the can down the road for someone else to tackle. If all of that is true, it is very short sighted. Instead of making the necessary and right changes due to cost, we continue to struggle to have our kids ready to compete in the world which then results in even higher costs to our economy down the road.

Churches are not immune to the same thing happening. We can get so over invested in various structures that we no longer question them or wonder if there is a better or even more biblical way of doing something. What are some structures in churches/ministries that you see as inefficient, missing the point, or at least could use some tweaking? Maybe they were once the right thing but no longer serve the same purpose or maybe there is clearly a better way but we avoid the tension and kick the can down the road for someone else to pick up. Not to just pick things apart or complain…how would you suggest we make those things better?


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  • Jerry Starling


    Wednesday nights during the Summer months have been “interesting” for my home congregation for the past several years. Our ladies’ class teacher, as well as others, needs a break. Accordingly, we have been trying to do some “all together” things instead of our usual classes. One year, we had different people in leadership teach an “all-together” class. The next year, we asked the congregation to suggest subjects they would like to discuss. Neither of these was particularly successful

    This year, I suggested we have ministry instead of classes – to actually do something instead of just talking about doctrine (which is supposed to motivate us to do something) or even about what we should be doing.

    So far, things are not going so well. Few people (even in leadership) have any idea about what we can do. Things may be improving a little since a leadership meeting earlier this week – but I’ll reserve judgment on that. The connection with what you wrote here is that any deviation from the accepted behavior or way of doing things is met with deep suspicion and resistance.

    A body in motion tends to remain in motion – and going in the same direction unless sufficient energy is expended to deflect it into some other path. How do you apply that energy? Maybe it has to be as a “temporary expedient” to meet some emergency situation. I wish I knew!

    • mattdabbs

      I don’t necessarily have an answer to your particular situation but I can offer one thought. Here are a couple of valid questions that can be asked to get that conversation moving with the leadership.

      1 – How many different Bible study opportunities does this church offer people (typically Sunday AM class, PM class, sermon, and Wed PM class = 4)
      2- How many different opportunities for service does this congregation offer people (typically limited to what happens in the building Sunday or Wednesday).
      3 – How well do the opportunities for service we provide match up scripturally with how the NT church was service people?
      4 – Would it hurt to take one of our four times for Bible study and change it into at least 1 opportunity to put our faith into action each week?

      Just a thought. I will pray that the congregation you are a part of can really catch a glimpse of what God is wanting you guys to do and that it be a success in reaching out to others. We have a massive problem with insulation and spiritual obesity in our churches. We are insulated from outsiders and we take in to much spiritual meat with so little room to exercise off those calories that we become spiritual couch potatoes and then we wonder why we have a tough time getting them off the pew.

  • K. Rex Butts

    I think one of the mistakes that has often been made in missions/church-planting is the assumption that one size fits all…hence, one structural way of doing church will be effective in achieving its goal since that same approach works elsewhere.

    So, in the CoC, we have many churches in the north that were a clone of a church from somewhere between rural Tennessee and Texas. That has been the case at the church I presently serve at which exists in a predominately Jewish and Roman Catholic culture. That culture was different from the 1950’s rural southern culture and today it is SURELY different and yet we keep investing ourselves in an ineffective way of being church. And of course, the problem is exasperated when there are still many Christians who equate faithfulness to God with faithfulness to a particular model/structure of being church.

    Grace and Peace,


  • Chris Pierson

    Just a thought on how people change.
    We have “trained” our members to sit in passive Bible classes with a sprinkling of discussion or passive worship assemblies.
    Then to introduce something that requires something different out of them…
    Changes would have to be slow, prayed over, unified in leadership OR they just won’t happen. The momentum in our system will overcome most any change we try to implement.
    So I encourage people NOT to try to change things with little reactions. Usually that only causes discomfort and encourages people to be less open to meaningful change in the future.

  • Brian B.

    I think a structure that should be at least be examined to see if it is still the best model is the scheduling of adult bible classes into four 13 week quarters that coincide with the rhythms of the school year. Some topics don’t lend themselves to 13 weeks of study (some don’t need that much time, some need more). As someone who has the responsibility of planning a class, I often find the quarter system frustrating, but it is difficult to get people to even consider whether change might be good and whether this is the best way to organize. And, similar to the example in your post, there are external forces that make it difficult for a single congregation to consider change. Most of the publishers of bible class materials are producing 12 and 13 week studies. Either out of habit or for economic reasons, they generally don’t seem to be producing materials with varying lengths. This external failure to consider change puts pressure on the local church to not change.

  • mattdabbs

    Material needs to be taught at whatever length is optimal. Sometimes material is stretched to 13 weeks and it just makes it very, very weak. Why not do 8 or 10 or 6 but make it the best it can be? You will see that is what Andy Stanley and others do…they don’t care about 13 weeks and it flies.

    • Jerry Starling

      That works – if you write your own material. Brian B. was looking at using pre-published material. I wonder how effective most of the published material is. I know there are some good series – and most publishers have some that are highly effective. However, much of the published material for adults is, in my estimation, very weak. That is one reason I like what you are doing with your Tools & Resources section of this blog. It gives a way of sharing material written “in the trenches.” That does not mean it will uniformly be better than published material that is available – but it does mean that most of it is written by people who have a passion and see a need – instead of someone who is producing at the behest of an editor/publisher.

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