Tuesday, October 14, 2008

discipleship of the mind: a problem for the church?

I'm cracking my head trying to write something on the topic of "Discipleship of the Mind (the sad truth is that there is no Christian mind in Malaysia)"? So I'd like to hear what you think. Do u agree with the statement? Do you see anti intellectualism as a problem in the church? How so? Or why not?

Or do we see encouraging signs of change like "book discussion groups, the cultivation of artists within the congregation, more discerning approaches to “secular” literature"?

What do u think?

As an appetizer for thought, check out this book "Full Gospel, Fractured minds" and ChristianityToday's interview with the author Rick nanez and this blog post from ThinkChristian


Jerry said...

My thoughts are:

1.0 We need to go back to our education system over the last few generations. We have been trained not to think outside the box, so to speak. In general, the education imparted has not been interesting. This does not create and nurture passion and creativity. Very often the reverse result is true, i.e a lack of enthusiasm and interest to use the mind to think; of course there are exceptions to this general rule. The pressure of work and homework with tuition merely to score does not provide time for other things!

2.0 The onslaught of modern technologies such as mobile phones; i-pods, MP4, e-mailing, blogsites and so on has taken a toll on our young people. We have become for one reason or another more visual rather than reading and thinking type. I fear that because of this the kind of unthinking mentality reinforces 1.0 above and vice versa.

3.0 As a result of which many are not trained to read critically. Perhaps an anti-intellectual atmosphere is natural rather than purposeful.

4.0 But I fully agreed with you that a practical biblically-based thinking is essential for every generation in view of our fast changing cultures and values. I suggest the following; that our thinking needs to be ...

Biblical ----- > Contextual ----- > Practical ----- > Pastoral ----- > Eschatological

David, just some quick thoughts from my old brain!

Thank you for the good work you are doing. Keep it up.


Perisai said...

Discipleship of the mind is Romans 12:2

berubahlah oleh pembaharuan budimu, sehingga kamu dapat membedakan manakah kehendak Allah: apa yang baik, yang berkenan kepada Allah dan yang sempurna.

Peter said...

I have heard many senior Christian leaders say that too many churches and too many pastors do not have a robust enough theology; that many pastors simply do not equip their congregations to apply their Christian faith in comprehensive enough ways.

Part of this has to do with the general standards of education in country. In some circles it is still true that men and women go into pastoral ministry because it is easier to do that than to pursue other career paths. It can also be said that many well educated and gifted men and women are reluctant to enter full-time ministry because churches do not have sufficient structures to support these people; such people are not always well looked after, resulting in pastoral ministry not being, from a human point of view, an attractive option.

Theologically, many of the newer, independent churches promote a form of spirituality and worship which is other-worldly. There is a kind of 'this world is not my home' kind of mentality which does little to encourage the development of rigorous Christian thinking which engages with the whole of life.

Role models may be in short supply. Malaysia has quite a few people walking around with doctorates of one sort or another, but are they actually contributing much to the church and the wider academic scene? [And there are a good number who having received their doctorates disappear off to greener pastures - normally to the West]. This has made many people not only skeptical of anything academic related to Christianity but skeptical as to why some Christians pursue academic study - is it just to further their own careers? So Malaysian churches need good role models. On the one hand, we will want people to understand that you don't need an academic degree in order to develop a Christian mind. On the other, we want the right people pursuing good research degrees, and who will then apply their learning in ways that serve the Malaysian church, rather than serve their own ego! A well-known Christian leader and academic in the UK said to me last week how much he respected Ng Kam Weng for remaining in Malaysia and using his gifts in the service of the Malaysian church.

It is also the case that Christianity is relatively new in places like Malaysia. Yes, we know that Christianity is not Western and that there were Christian communities in Asia from very early on, but in terms of the impact of Christianity on life and culture and learning, Malaysia still has a long way to go compared with other parts of the world. We need patience! But we also need Christian men and women of vision. In his chapter on Leadership in Issues Facing Christians Today, John Stott says that vision "is an act of seeing, of course, an imaginative perception of things, combining insight and foresight. But more particularly... it is compounded of a deep dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what could be. It begins with indignation over the status quo and it grows into the earnest quest for an alternative." We need Malaysian Christians who are not afraid to ask "WHY?" People who will be prepared to THINK! But we also need Malaysian Christians who can see things the way George Bernard Shaw (quoted in Stott's chapter) did when he said "You see things as they are and ask 'why?' But I dream things that never were, and ask "WHY NOT?" Something along the lines of Marx - "the philosophers have only in various ways interpreted the world: the point, however, is to change it". The thinking through and application of the radical kingdom message of Jesus Christ into the whole of life is surely the greatest task to get excited about in Malaysia or anywhere.


Churches need to recognise the benefit of an educated ministry. By that I mean churches need people in leadership of the highest calibre. Churches need to see the need of attracting well educated people into pastoral ministry; setting some sort of academic criteria for the people they accept into pastoral ministry; working with theological colleges to develop high academic standards of theological education. This is not of course to say that the Lord cannot use men and women who have little in the way of academic qualifications. And we should add - not all those with academic qualifications are necessarily wise or holy.

Seminaries have a key role to play, and those who serve in theological education need to be making connections with other academic disciplines.
Publications like Kairos do help. I wonder also if there is a place for a Kuala Lumpur version of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Check out their website to see how they approach things.

For me, the key is the local congregation and the kind of pastoral ministry that is exercised there - the quality of discipleship, teaching, preaching and training that goes on in that particular context. We need pastors along the lines of John Stott - men who are committed to God's Word and who can make their scholarship accessible to ordinary church members and who can bring God's Word to address every part of life.

Discipleship of the mind is a long-term project! And that too is the difficulty. Many Malaysian Christians (and not just Malaysians - plenty of Irish Christians too) today are in too much of a hurry. We have tons of resources and have access to so much information. But information and knowledge is not wisdom, and how does wisdom translate into holiness? It takes time for God's Word to penetrate the recesses of our minds and to heal the unintegratedness of our lives. We need to slow down and spend time in study and reflection. But that's not easy in a context where Christians are aiming at overnight discipleship success, where pastors are walking up and down the aisle of the church on a Sunday morning with hand-counters doing the numbers game. Have we lost our mind?! I could go on, but I should not!

Hope this stirs some thoughts. This is written in haste

All the best,