It is perhaps time that we more fully and more intentionally embraced modern styles of learning into the way we foster and develop people as disciples in the Church - ironically this 'modern' way of learning looks very much like the way Jesus approached learning and discipleship with his followers.
For much of the life of the the Church, (That which we call Christendom - the time when Christianity was the dominant religious, moral and cultural societal paradigm) learning has been controlled by the learned - that is knowledge is shared/passed-on by the knowledgeable.
Much of the recent life of Church has been shaped by modern-ist forms of thinking where there are certain truths to be told, known and understood as they have been told, known and understood by the Christian culture that the learning takes place in. There was in effect a set of beliefs to be believed and often they took form a creeds to be learnt. There were morals to be followed and certain duties to be performed. The Christian discipleship equation worked along the lines that if you believed the right things, attended Church and served dutifully and lived with the right morals then salvation was the reward. There is much value in this as most of the elements are are good and helpful for righteous living. Of course this is also an oversimplification and a gross generalisation. However, this type of faith and discipleship can lead to religious complacency.
As we continue to move into a new millenium, we have moved into a new era for the Church. Christendom is nowhere near as strong as it was within our globalised, multi-cultural, and multi-faith world. Post-modernism and its balancing corrective of post-post-modernism has seen a shift in the way people approach questions of truth and belief. With the inception and growth of the internet and computing technologies, knowledge is now accessible on an increasingly exponential scale.
All this means that the style of education and learning has shifted, to a point where learning is less about the learner receiving a package of knowledge from the learned and knowledgeable teacher. We are increasingly moving in to a learn-ED (learning- Educational) focus. Here the emphasis is less on acquiring a certain packet of knowledge, but more on learning to learn and how to gather the knowledge that is needed at the time. This is not about devaluing knowledge, but is more about how we apply it and use to situations and circumstances. What hasn't changed is the learning of skills, but there has been a re-emergence around the skill of learning and learning how to learn. It is also about learning how to think and develop skills.
As all things often do, they seem to come back round to where they were some time before. This is perhaps beginning to happen in the Church. We have at the core of our theological endeavour always accepted that God is always more that we can fully comprehend and there is always more to be learnt as disciples both in terms of understanding our faith and applying it in our ministry and service to others. Faith-based learning is about learning to learn and learning to think in order to better live out God's call to discipleship through living and loving in caring service to God and others. It is about accepting the limitations of knowledge and moving beyond having a fixed set of doctrines that must be learned by rote, to see doctrines as being important foundations in which we build our own faith and discipleship through communion with God and with each other as the Church.
Faith based learning is about a learn-ed model of being which is about all people discovering and taking responsibility as learners so that all can carry the tradition and teaching of the Church rather than a group of experts. This does not mean that we don't need educated people who are experts in the Bible and theology. What is means is that there is a shift in their role as educators from being teachers which impart their knowledge and download it into their students, to teachers who use their knowledge and expertise to shape learning pathways for others so that others can learn fr themselves. It is a move from the learned being imparters of knowledge to being facilitators of learning and understanding. Knowledge is still shared.
'Godly Play' is one good example where the use of story by the 'teacher' is augmented by open questions which in turn open questions in the learners which then leads them to do their own thinking and processing in order to draw links and connections to other learning, to other parts of the faith tradition and to how they might apply their learning in practical ways in their faith and discipleship.
Teaching still occurs, but the style shifts back more to the way of Jesus and his simple and challenging way of story and explanation that almost always had a practical application to any learning that took place.
It is something to perhaps do more thinking and learning about.
- Jon Humphries
posted at https://www.facebook.com/groups/formingfaith/permalink/440394136100662/