Thursday, July 12, 2018

Learn: Church Life is an Upside-down Classroom

Introducing myself to a new massage therapist I told him I was a pastor.  His response was, I don't know sh*t about that!   My guess is that there are plenty of 'adherents' and 'members' for whom the same reply might be appropriate.  For many adult Christians, the ways to even begin the LEARN part of the WAY OF LOVE are a big oh crud question without an obvious answer. Like a young person being given the tools to make dinner instead of just receive it, some help and directions may be needed.  

My first instinct is a list of fabulous books to read, however, apparently,  not everyone loves to read and read and read (the world is not made of Hermione's). Therefore, everything on this list is either a podcast or a video or audio method of lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning and formation should be a balance of the communal and personal. We need the community to ask questions and discern, but we also need a time of personal study. The way of LEARN is in part an upside-down classroom where some of the absorption is done independently and in the middle of your lives. 

In search of more LEARN in your WAY OF LOVE,  here are six ways to get a quick start on your personal lifelong learning and formation.

1. Bible for Normal People Podcast Coordinated and usually hosted by Peter Enns, a professor of Biblical Studies and author who loves inviting people into informed, creative, and reasonable engagement with the Bible. His guests are frequently excellent fellow scholars, and the hour-ish podcast is both conversational and instructional.

2. The Bible Project An impressive teaching project that is striving to offer animated videos that not only help us quickly learn about parts of the Bible but also to learn more about some of the bigger themes and methods and literature types in the library we know as the Bible. "We simply desire to help others understand the scriptures and all their complex themes in a way that is engaging, approachable, and transformative.

3. Crash Courses  My love and excitement about the Crash Course project (which just keeps growing) is enormous.  Smart and funny and hosted mostly by the legendary Green brothers.  John Green is also a bestselling author (the Fault in our Stars, for example), and his brother is a musician and the creative genius behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  There is so much to learn within the Crash Course universe, however for getting started in your lifelong Christian learning there are two paths to begin with.  The first is the World History series; especially starting with #3 to learn more about the world in which the Biblical and our religious history began.  Almost all of that series is valuable learning, however, you may want to pick and choose a bit.  The World History 2 set has some valuable big themes of history videos, and you might want to look at some of the World Mythology series.  Secondly, do take a look at the Philosophy series, especially starting with #9, to get a bit more of a sense of some of the philosophical issues that are woven throughout religion.

4. Great Courses  This organization focuses on getting world-class teachers and scholars into formats that are easily accessible by people like us.  They have a wide array of DVD courses, all of which are pricey, but some of which can be found at your local library.  I truly appreciate their audio courses, some of which may be available through your library, but many of which are available for purchase and download through Audible (my search says 56).  I have found some of the philosophy of language and sociology titles to be quite relevant as well.

5. On Being   An NPR show that I have never managed to happen upon being broadcast, I find her interviews with a wide array of scientists, artists, religionists, and public figures to be deep and valuable.  I download several episodes at at a time, but sometimes am deeply surprised by the offering of the week.  Dive into the deep library of interviews and find the ones with Brene Brown, David Steindal-Rast, John O'Donahoe,  and Walter Brueggemann, and the one on How to Be a Christian Citizen. The project says that it seeks to look behind and beyond the news cycle, attending to the human change that makes social transformation possible across generational time.  

6.  Pray as You Go  This amazing project is a prayer practice, however, the Ignatian Bible Study methods are a critical part of the daily offering.  While this isn't going to instruct you in Ignatian (Jesuit) practices explicitly, regular use of this prayer app will help you to understand the kinds of questions that can help us 'get into' the texts of our faith.  You can find the daily prayer as a podcast download, on their website, and as an app. 

So friends, what not-a-book sources of lifelong Christian learning and formation feed your regular practices of 'continuing in the Apostle's teaching'?  Leave your suggestions and lifegiving liberating streams of knowledge in the comments section!

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