Hello, friends! Sorry it's been so long. We've been settling in and getting a routine and what with finally having a kitchen to cook in and church events and setting up Christmas...I haven't had a moment to think of anything interesting, much less write it up for you. But here we are. I hope everyone is getting ready for a jolly Christmastime as we are, and I hope your lights are all sparkling and your cats are all curled next to snow-framed windows and cinnamon and other delicious smells are wafting through your homes.
I have a though to present for your consideration. I've finally started reading one of the books I was given for high school graduation (I know--I'm so slow!) and I'm absolutely delighted by it. It's a very famous book--Heretics / Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton--and while his writing style is a tad hard to follow in passages, it's well worth the effort.
His first chapter discusses the meanings of the words "orthodox" and "heretic" and how we misconstrue them in modern conversation. Though his works were originally written in 1905 and 1908 respectively, his ideas have only become more poignant and applicable--and though he was referring to his Great Britain culture, the American culture is only too similar in respects to the moral issues at hand.
Though the very meaning of "orthodox" is an argument for being in the right, and the meaning of "heretic" is a term only a fool would use on himself, we've allowed flippant talk and fake humor to warp our understanding of these terms to the point where one who is "orthodox" is either a bizarre foreign religious person with funny hats and specific dress code or a prudish, backward, old-school fuddy-dud who refuses to accept current trends, ideals, science, and sense. "Heresy" is likewise misused to mean new and flashy and shocking and cool. How confused we are!
I have been thinking a lot about the basics of the Christian faith, and how difficult it is to understand them if you were not raised in the Christian culture--since it's not synonymous with the American culture any more--and how "Christianese" practically deserves it's own dictionary. I was in a study the other day where we were throwing around phrases and buzzwords that, to those of us raised in Sunday School, meant an enormous amount. There were centuries of philosophy and theology and church history foundational to the terms we used--terms like "reformed" or "blessed," or phrases like "Walk with God" or "come to Jesus."
I've spent 24 years learning God's Word and church history and theology and philosophy...and I know I've just scratched the surface of understanding virtues like joy, patience, kindness; I've hardly a notion what "love" really is; and even though I know Phillipians 4:13 by heart, I still don't act like I truly believe that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Which brings me to this realization. When we lead people to Christ (another Christianese phrase), how do we "bring them up to speed" as it were? Not that I am so mature in my faith--I try to be and hope to be and seek to understand God and to grow in Him--but there are so many terms and verses and stories that build up the Christian culture, beyond the pure theology of Christianity. Do we even provide that for new converts?
Hopefully, we do. Some churches have new member's/new Christian's classes that go through the basics of Christianity, explaining prayer, faith, salvation, the trinity...all the important basics. But what about people who get saved outside of those churches? Those who actually get up the gumption to go out and share the gospel and (praise the Lord) bring someone to know him...do you follow up with that person or just hope that they find someone else to tend the seed that you watered? (More Christianese!)
I know what the answer should be--yes. Of course we should keep up with our brothers and sisters. Of course we should make sure that since we've been used by God to hatch this little Christling, we now feed it and help it learn to spread its little wings and fly in the gospel. We need to warn them of Cats and briar patches, and show them where the safe branches are, and the fresh water, and bountiful fields. Because if we leave them to figure it out on their own, there's no telling what trouble they'll get into, even if the prowling cats don't eat them up!
It's no wonder the American culture is so confused, with snatches of truth here and there, and a whole lot of feelings confusing it, and words being defined backwards and sideways and orthodoxy and heresy taking on complete wrong meanings or no meaning at all.
It's a tragedy that so often we do not define our terms, and do not disciple new Christians--and I know missionaries struggle with this also, not just Americans in America. But that's part of sharing our faith; disciple the new people so they not only made the decision, but they are equipped to follow through. It's a struggle, I know. Resources, time, knowledge...
And by the way, I am not trying to point a finger at anyone, I'm just thinking aloud. This is a personal struggle, too.
Discipleship assumes a relationship. We must spend time with these people, we must know what the Word says and what the Church has learned through history so we are equipped, not only to bring them to an understanding of Christ as Savior (which is the best message we'll ever share with someone!) but also what it means, then, to be a follower of Christ! It's simplicity is incredible, but there is a beautiful complexity also--and frankly, in a world full of questions and issues and gray areas, we need to make sure our black and white is understood thoroughly, and that the topics of true confusion are addressed--and these topics will change, depending on who the new Christian is and where they are in life.
This is why mentoring is so incredibly important.
Mentoring builds that relationship. It provides accountability; it allows for open communication without fear or condemnation for ignorance; it makes opportunities to grow and learn and...mature. In theory, of course. And it's not just for newbies--all of us can use that, can we not? Someone wiser than we are with more experience and a deeper understanding of some aspects of God and the Christian journey? Why would we NOT want a mentor? I think it's safe to say none of us have "arrived"!
Just some thoughts. :) More to come.
Anyhow, enjoy the holidays, be with friends, Praise God for His Gift...Merry Christmas!