Education Equals Friendship

Education Equals Friendship

My friend Gary David Stratton in his post, The Greco-Roman Liberal Arts: When Students were more than just Numbers, advances what he calls “educating two-handed warriors—men and women committed to both the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit.” in this short series, Stratton outlines what he sees as the two traditional streams of education. The first stream came from the Greeks:

The Greek Philosophical tradition was consumed with the pursuit of truth. It was birthed in the life and teachings of Socrates, as recorded by Plato (c. 427-347 BCE) and refined by Aristotle. In the philosophical tradition the liberal arts function as “liberating arts” in that they were designed to “free the mind from traditional beliefs accepted uncritically.” Their aim is to examine “our opinions and values to see whether or not they are really true and good” (Hoeckley, 2002b, p. 1).

There are certainly some positive elements to this Greek philosophy of education which seeks to free us from uncritical belief. But there was a competing system of thought from the Romans:

The Roman Oratorical tradition focused more on leadership development. It’s founder, Cicero (c. 106-43 BCE), never lost sight of his dream that education was about “training citizens to be leaders of society” (Taylor, 2001, p. 1).  In the oratorical tradition studying the “liberal arts” meant that students were “liberated” from the pragmatic concerns of merely learning a trade. They were learning to think, so that they could lead their culture toward the good, the beautiful, and the true.

There are also some great ideas in the Roman tradition that reflect a lot of what we would like to see in our modern liberal arts eduction. In fact, both of these approaches should seem familiar to us as they merged together in the middle ages in the seven liberal arts: Arithmetic, Astronomy, Dialectic, Geometry, Grammar, Music, and Rhetoric. However, there is also some major differences from what we experience in the West. The old educational system was very relational in three ways:

Education was Discipleship

Education and what we would call “discipleship” were virtually synonymous.Michael J. Wilkins (Following the Master, 1992) notes that the master-disciple relationship was the key to education in the Greco-Roman world. “We find an early relationship between the noun mathetes(disciple) and the verb ‘to learn’” (p. 72). Philosophers and orators alike attracted students and/or were hired by parents or city-states to train young men in apprenticeship-like relationships (p. 73).

Education was Community

Socrates specifically rejected the Sophists’ more distant student-teacher relationships and their charging students “tuition,” branding them educational mercenaries with little or no concern for the souls of their students. The Socratic method of instruction necessitated intimate relationships in tight-knit learning community (p. 74). Socrates and his student, Plato, called their disciples “friends,” precisely because they “wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community” (p. 75).

Education was Virtue & Friendship

Aristotle’s experience with Socrates and Plato led him to assert that virtue and friendship are the inseparable foundations of education. He believed that it is impossible for a student to learn from a teacher who is not also his friend (Kraut, 2005). The relationship between virtue and discipleship was so critical that the “imitation of the conduct of a human master became a significant feature of a disciple of a great master… and involved a commitment that affected the follower’s entire life” (Wilkins, p. 77, 76).

Now while these three ideals provided the foundation for Western liberal arts education, much of this is absent in what most of us experience today. Stratton outlines several of these contemporary qualities that subvert the Greco-Roman ideals once valued:

Education is Mercenary

It really isn’t all that difficult to imagine what Socrates would make of the distant, academic, and often mercenary approach to education that dominates twenty-first-century colleges and universities. While numerous historical, economic, and pragmatic factors led to most twentieth-century American colleges gradually abandoning the liberal arts tradition of friendship and virtue (even in many liberal arts colleges), the impact has been devastating.

Education is A-Moral

The liberal arts vision of flooding our culture with  a steady stream of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders has fallen on hard times.Julie Reuben’s (1996) The Making of the Modern University traces the tragic decline of relationally-based moral education and the corresponding decline in morality in American society. It is a difficult thesis to refute.

Education is Impersonal

Whereas Plato and Aristotle interacted with their students as friends, depersonalized modern university students are often little more than numbers. No relationship means no moral transformation, at least not for the good.

Aristotle (c. 384-322 BCE) Is it possible for a student to truly learn from a teacher who is not also his friend?

Ultimately, Stratton hopes that the future of Western education will take a lesson from the past. We need to reexamine the student-teacher relationship and what that might look like in a digital age (what I call Flipped Theology & I talked about at the Biola conference a while back). Stratton concludes, “we cannot assemble two-handed warriors in educational assembly lines. They need to be nurtured in tight-knit learning communities.”

In my post next week, I will share my own philosophy of Christian education and the ideals that I hope will foster the kind of two-handed warrior communities presented by Stratton.

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Accountability

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Accountability

Liner Notes

To discern the DNA of a leader; look to the life of his disciples.  A leader is only as good as the next generation of leaders they produce.

Accountability is all about friction and conflict… but that is not to say all conflict is healthy.

4 Barriers to Creating a Culture of Accountability

  1. The Fear of Failure
  2. Lack of commitment from leaders and followers.
  3. A lack of clear expectations which is made worse by our fear of pain.
  4. The loss of shame

5 Aspects to the DNA of Accountability

As Christian leaders, in the church or even in business, we need accountability.

  • Accountable to God The DNA of Accountability is submitting to the Father’s will so we can experience the total pleasure in His holiness.
  • Accountable to Men The DNA of Accountability grows relationships of forgiveness and cleansing, which reorient our beliefs, customs and practices, both public and private.

#1: God’s Leader Is Accountable First To God

“Spiritual leaders must not shun public accountability.” – Henry Blackaby

(Acts 24:14–16, ESV)  “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. ”

#2: God’s Leader Is Accountable To Other Leaders

(Acts 15:1–2, ESV)  “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. ”

#3: God’s Leader Is Accountable To The People

(1 Corinthians 8:9–13, ESV) “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ”

(2 Corinthians 1:12–14, ESV) “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. ”

#4: God’s Leader Is Accountable To The Law

(Romans 13:1–7, ESV)  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. ”

#5: God’s Leader Holds Other To Account

(2 Peter 3:1–2, ESV) “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,”

No one man or woman stands at the head of the body. We are fitted together as a family and committed to serving our one God and Father; YHWH.

What are some of the systems that keep our local church Bodies healthy?

The Organizational System:  Every church, from House Church to Mega-Church, has some kind of organizational structure. An Organizational System is like the Skeletal System.  The Pastors, Elders, Paid Staff, Deacons, Apostles, Overseers, etc.; all work to give the Body shape and offer both spiritual and physical protection (Acts 6:1-7is one good example).

The Leadership System: The Leadership System determines how leaders connect with the rest of God’s people.  A Leadership System is like the Circulatory System. A healthy Leadership System filters out the waste, responds to the heartbeat of YHWH, and enables the individual parts of the Body to imbibe the life giving “nutrients” of Jesus Christ. And just like the veins in our human bodies, the more servant-leaders in a church, the healthier the Body will be.

The Assimilation System: The Assimilation System moves people from outside the church into fully committed participants of the local church.  A system for assimilation is like the Digestive System.  A healthy Assimilation System ensures that every person involved in the church is using their Spirit-giftings, and talents, to nourish the Body.

The Evangelism System: The Evangelism System enables the Body to fulfill the great calling of Christ to make disciples. A system for Evangelism is  like the human Reproductive system.  The Evangelism System connects all the members of the Body and uses their energy to create new life in Jesus Christ.

These are just 4 of the organic Body-systems that come to mind, but there are many more.

A clear understanding and healthy use of systems is biblical, and it enables the natural growth of the Church. Anyone who is planting and/or leading a church or business without the necessary systems is not building a viable church.

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Integrity

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Integrity

Liner Notes

Integrity means..  Inspired by God’s forgiveness, we live open and honest lives toward God and each other.

  • The DNA of Integrity inspires us to live in honesty with a Father who, without reserve or measure, loves and forgives us.
  • The DNA of Integrity removes the masks of “I am perfect” and “I have it all together” so we can live in humility with our Family.

5 Aspects to the DNA of Integrity

#1: The Integrous Leader Builds God’s Kingdom Not A Personal Following

“There is a big difference between drawing a crowd and building a church; marketers can draw a crowed, cults can draw a crowd, but only God’s people can build the Kingdom.” – Henry Blackaby

(2 Kings 4:42–44, ESV)  “[During a great time of famine,] a man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’ ” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord. ”

This story is a model of movement; meeting a man where he was (the city of Baal’s provision) and taking him where he needed to be.  If we are gong to be integrous leaders who build Churches; not personal followings, then here is the approach.  The integrous leader has a Kingdom approach.

  • First, Leaders must recognize that people will come because of some need. In preceding story, the man left behind his city god, “Baal-Shalishah:” not because he had a deep inner need for “God”, but because his life was messed up and he needed help.
  • Second, Leaders must help people move forward past their need. Elisha did this by introducing this man to his God (Elohim) and letting the man know that Elisha’s God could meet his need.
  • Third, Leaders must move forward and recognize that people need role-models. This man did not take a step of faith because he loved God, he moved forward because he saw in Elisha something to be trusted and admired.  There is nothing wrong with being a charismatic leader who draws people to the church.  There is nothing wrong with designing programs that will connect people to the church.  But…
  • Fourth, Leaders must move forward and connect people to their Creator. The man in our story trusted Elisha and experienced a blessing.  Elisha then taught this man not to follow him, but to follow “God” (YHWH).
  • Fifth, Leaders must move forward allow people to enter into God’s Dream. It is great to have a well thought-out Philosophy of Ministry and statement of purpose, but ultimately God’s dream is bigger.

(Hosea 2:13–16, ESV)  “And I [YHWH] will punish [Israel] for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ ”

#2: The Integrous Leader Knows The Way

“The key to dealing with a rapidly changing world, to dealing with this culture addicted to speed, is not to catch up, but to give up on keeping up.” – Erwin McManus

Observations on Culture and Living a Kingdom Worldview

  • Culture is neither our friend, nor is culture our enemy; it is simply the tool we can freely use to spread the Gospel.
  • Methods can change without changing the message.
  • Traditions can go in and out of fashion, and we should not elevate tradition above the person of Christ.
  • Methods/Culture/Tradition are not the Way and effective leaders know how to distinguish each one from both our identity and our mission.

(Ephesians 6:12, ESV)  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ”

#3: The Integrous Leader Is Marked By Humility

“Blessed are the meek, blessed are the failures, blessed are the stupid, for they, unknown to themselves, have a grace which is denied to the haughty, the successful, and the wise” – Arnold Benet from his book “Anna of The Five Towns”

(Proverbs 22:4, ESV)  “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

Our mission is not to provide an alternative to the world, but to demonstrate the Way of Christ.

Risk #1: The first external risk of humble leadership comes from other leaders who love the pleasure of applause.

Risk #2: The second external risk of humble leadership comes not from other leaders, but from the people whom we serve.

Blessing: When you don’t care who gets the credit, you will accomplish a lot more for the Kingdom.

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. ” (Proverbs 15:33, ESV)

#4: The Integrous Leader Is Worthy Of Being Followed

I saw this sign from a company called “Legal Sea Foods” and it featured their slogan, “Not Just Selling Fish”

“At Legal Sea Foods, we are not just a restaurant selling fish. Rather we are a fish company in the restaurant business. This philosophy drives everything that we do…”

So what does it mean to be a leader worthy of being followed?

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Faith

[PODCAST] Leadership Starts With Faith

Linter Notes

5 Building Blocks of a Good Leader’s DNA

  • DNA of Faith: United to YHWH through the power of the Spirit, we live like a family and share our earthly joys and sorrows.
  • DNA of Integrity: Inspired by God’s forgiveness, we live open and honest lives toward God and each other.
  • DNA of Commitment: We decide each day to count the cost of following Jesus and we choose not give up on each other no matter what challenges come our way.
  • DNA of Accountability: We submit to the Father so we can experience the pleasure of His holiness, and build relationships in the church that promote cleansing.
  • DNA of Incarnation: In the midst of brokenness, we live in the power of Jesus’ resurrection wholeness so that the world can see, touch, hear, smell and taste the physical presence of Christ in us.

In the coming weeks, I will focus in on each one of the building blocks.  Today’s show explore the first building block of Faith.

5 Aspects to the DNA of Faith

#1: Faithful Leaders Exhibit God’s Power & Presence

“Leaders do not have to prove God is guiding them, God’s presence will be unmistakable.” – Henry Blackaby

#2: Faithful Leaders Are Really Dead Man Walking

“Only dead men can follow the God of the cross” – Erwin McManus

#3: Faithful Leaders Have Dangerous Thinking

“How do we ever develop a safe theology from a dangerous Faith?“- Erwin McManus

#4: Faithful Leaders Follow God’s Vision Not Man’s Opinion

“Nations have great men only in spite of themselves, like families. They direct all their efforts to not having them. And thus the great man must have in order to exist a force of attack greater than the force of resistance developed by millions of individuals.” – Henry David Thoreau

#5: Faithful Leaders Know That Success Comes From The Soul

“In the long run, leadership effectiveness hinges on who you are rather than on what you can do. You can learn how to act like a leader, but people will not follow you for long unless you are a leader” — George Barna

A. Destructive thoughts…

#1… “I am not good enough to be an Leader!”
#2… “I am the most qualified to be a Leader!”

B. Constructive thoughts…

#1. Soul leaders are not qualified for leadership, they are called to leadership.
#2. Success of the soul is the goal of every man and woman, but not every man is called to the same thing.
#3. Soul leaders bring lasting health to their church & business.

Next week’s show will explore the second building block.. The DNA of Integrity.

According to the Gospel of Greed

According to the Gospel of Greed

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep…

But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…”

I have been working as the general editor for a new book titled Defining Deception by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood published by SCSPress. This book speaks to the dangers of the prosperty gospel and leaders like Benny Hinn and Bill Johnson who seek prosperity through distortion of biblical truth.

As I read through this book, I am reminded so much of my days at Oral Roberts University and the deception I witnessed first hand—all in the name of greed.

Isn’t it funny how God’s path to financial prosperity always goes straight through the bank account of some TV preacher? The issue is not whether these folks have broken the laws of Government. Even if their actions are perfectly legal, I find them immoral. Not because they have made income from serving the Lord, but because they have done so using manipulation and deceit. I have personally sat and listened to many of these people tell listeners that they cannot be blessed by God unless they send in donations to their specific ministry. I have sat and heard them tell little old ladies that their children or grandchildren will not be saved unless they purchase the prayers of the televangelist. These modern deceivers have reinvented the same Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences to receive the “blessing” that we Protestants rebelled against 500 years ago. The Scriptures are right… a dog will return to his vomit.

Let me tell you with some authority that a prayer hanky with the sweat of Benny Hinn will not bring any spiritual blessings–no matter how much you paid for it–and Bibles branded with the name of a TV preacher, and enhanced with their special teachings, will not contain any special revelation from God.

During the Dark Ages, the Popes built their Cathedrals on the backs of the peasants who starved their way into the Kingdom while the Popes ate well.  Today there is no less shame for these “spiritual entrepreneurs” who have built their personal wealth on the backs of the spiritually weak, the poor, and emotionally distraught–God is grieved and angered!

But it is not enough to look at these few examples and think there is no guilt laid at the feet of the rest of the Church. Look inward my friends. Look at the practices of your own church, your own pastors, and your own leaders. Leaders, examine your own hearts and deeds. The American Church is in desperate need of another Reformation and I for one am ready to see it come!

Jesus said, to them,

Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.

Jesus also warns us

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Paul warned the church of Ephesus, and us,

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

and again to the church in Colossee

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience…

The book, Defining Deception, is a great starting point to get informed. I pray anyone consumed by these messengers of a false Gospel will find freedom in the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[PODCAST] Teams Are Not A Toy

[PODCAST] Teams Are Not A Toy

Teams are not a toy, yet so many leaders treat them like a personal playground.  A popular leader recently tweeted out, “It’s foolish to go where the team can’t take you. Change the team or change the dream. #leadership”

  • BUT, teams are MORE than a means to an end.
  • What about a 3rd option… develop people instead of treating them like tools for a job

Teams are more than a strategic toy so today I want to look at 6 characteristics of the teams Paul served with in the New Testament and how we can implement his approach for better team leadership.

  • First, Paul’s approach to team development placed little emphasis on titles that distinguished him from his co-laborers.  The synergy of roles defined through the use of giftings produces strong momentum for the team.
  • Second, Paul used the power of consensus leadership to develop teams.  Consensus leadership does not preclude the need for good decision-making, but rather it places an emphasis on each person as an equal. See 1 Thes 2:6 “…we might have asserted our authority.”
  • Third, Paul developed teams that he could trust with difficult decisions.  He did not have to override their decisions because he relied upon his training and the equipping of the Holy Spirit to ensure that the church would stay strong.
  • Fourth, Paul demonstrated flexibility within team roles.
  • Fifth, following the example of Jesus, Paul knew that successful leadership was defined by the ability to invest in other people who could in turn invest in other people and establish a chain of generational leadership.
  • Finally, it is impossible to close this segment of today’s show without mentioning the centrality of Jesus Christ throughout the mission of the church.  The headship of the church was, and is, Christ alone who forms the thoughts and mission of the church.

PODCAST

by Dr. J.R. Miller | Christian Leadership Radio

Pin It on Pinterest