Think Free

ClassroomIt may seem outside my purview on a site dedicated to Technically Thinking that I would post an article exploring education. But this is a blog about thinking, so I believe I can squeeze it in.

Without even realizing it, the church has copied the world’s system when it comes to how we do what we do and how we think about it. We organize and structure ourselves like businesses organize. We educate disciples like the public school system educates factory workers. I say it is past time to break free from these molds and myths and think free. Let me explain.

Recently I read a fantastic article on kottke.org titled, “Yeah, I’m Free Thinking.”
Kottke.org is an eclectic collection of links to articles and videos and all things internet; anything Jason Kottke finds interesting. This particular article is about education.

Education is undergoing a global, seismic shift. Indeed, I would contend that all the 7 major spheres of society (or 7 cultural mountains) are undergoing a similar ground-shaking transformation. On a global scale.

Those sphere are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Art & Entertainment
  2. Business (Science, Technology)
  3. Education
  4. Family
  5. Government
  6. Media
  7. Religion

When I read or see an article that provides some insight on this macro-level change, I take notice. This article links to two recent publications that are strikingly similar, yet worlds apart, and involve providing a learning environment with little instruction provided by adults. Of course, as Jason points out, that thing “instruction provided by adults” is what we call education. The thing that most caught my eye though was this insight by Jason, in reference to the two articles:

“It’s tempting to conclude that the computer is the magical ingredient here: just add computers and children can learn anything. But if the story of Sergio Juárez Correa’s fifth-grade class is any indication, the secret is the kids organizing themselves to learn.”
Jason Kottke
http://kottke.org/13/11/yeah-im-free-thinking

…kids organizing themselves to learn.
This is really nothing new, right? I mean, isn’t that what all those computer clubs and chess clubs were about? Or book clubs created by stay-at-home moms that transform how they all end up living their lives for God? It is no wonder that Apple Inc.’s start can be traced back to one of these communities – Homebrew Computer Club* – people organizing themselves to learn.

In my Bible college days it was the Heretics Club**: a group of us who began to re-examine the ministry and methods of the church and challenged each other to contend for a more accurate and Biblical view of God’s people. It was exponential learning. Some of those deposits into my life at that stage are still bearing fruit today. We were organizing ourselves to learn. The very definition of organic.

I am a big believer in community groups (or small groups, cell groups, life groups). I recognize the weakness of the concept because it manipulates and codifies what should be organic. I would argue that in the American church we have so atrophied in this communal aspect of our Christianity that we need these training wheels to kickstart the process. But this should not be the end game. Consider this article by Mike Breen explaining the concept of oikos or the church as family, which is the real end game: Why The Corporate Church Won’t Work.

There is a better way to live the mission of the church and do Kingdom work. There is a better way to educate/make disciples. I say this because the methods we are using are not effective [too strong? at least not as effective as they once were]. Yes, we have some testimonies. Yes, God is faithful and is using even our blunders to advance His Kingdom. I truly value and am grateful for what God is doing, but I am not satisfied with the status quo.

  • In many areas of our structure and methods, we have copied the world’s system.
  • In any area fitting that description, we need to change to the Kingdom model.
  • In almost all of those areas, the world also recognizes that they need to change for economic and cultural reasons.
  • Why would we maintain a copied, corrupt, and bankrupt system that even the originators now reject? Because it’s all we know? It baffles me.

If I am not making a compelling enough argument, consider this:

I think this applies to all of us, but if I can say a word to those of us who are technical directors in our churches (or media directors, or communications directors), we are often the divergent thinkers. The young people and adults who sign up to be on our teams are often, also, divergent thinkers. Our ability to keep them motivated and provide a learning environment tailored to them – where they can excel and be discipled – will insure that the church has the skilled craftsman needed to reach the world in the future. I admit to not always doing this well. I have a machine that I oversee and I need help to keep that machine running. But I believe there is a better way.

That better way is our real job. Think free.

* The Homebrew Computer Club just celebrated the 38th anniversary of their first meeting. From an article published on November 11, 2013.

Love this from the comment section by user siliconvalleystory:

Quoting from a Stanford Mac Users newsletter of 2001: “More significant than any individual, design, product, or company that it nurtured, Homebrew was a cultural and technological renaissance that catalyzed the transfer of computing from the insular priesthood of big corporations and government into the hands of individuals.”

This! This is what I’m talking about!

** We were called the Heretics Club for two reasons: (1) We liked the definition of heretic: challenging church orthodoxy. (2) We were asked to disband. Seems we got too radical! Which of course is like pouring fuel on a fire. “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me!”

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3 thoughts on “Think Free

    1. You say it well, Clark. Glad to keep the conversation going.
      I keep trying to find any illustration and analogy to emphasize that change is upon us, like it or not.
      Thanks for introducing me to the background of the 7 cultural mountains.
      I appreciate your encouragement.

  1. As an educator, I have learned that top-down teaching is only good for a few things. Communicating a lot of information that can easily be repeated (and then often forgotten) is probably its most notable achievement. But it’s very bad at transformative learning. And besides, Google does the information sharing better. Only hands-on involvement, engagement that is directed by the learner on some level (usually with guidance from another learner who’s further along the way) can achieve real transformation. Why so many churches continue to cling to that older model is beyond me.

    I like to ask students: How many of you were told in church not to ask certain questions? You might be surprised how many nods I get. Good luck getting their attention after that.

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