Discipleship – #FAIL 2

Question: What do you think the main problem in the church today is? Ignorance or Apathy?

Answer: I Don’t Know… and… I Don’t Care

I had forgotten about this when I posted my article on Failed Discipleship earlier. It is a prime example of how we have succeeded at creating church members, but failed at creating disciples. Listen to this first-hand, gut-level honesty of a minister explain why they are canceling EVERYTHING at their church due to Lack of Interest:

Discipleship – #FAIL

 Bible image

One day a ten year old boy came home with a note from his teacher. The note said,

“We are concerned that your child is illiterate. Can we have a parent-teacher conference?”

The next morning before school the mother stormed into the class room, slammed the note down on the teacher’s desk, looked her straight in the eye and said,

“I’ll have you know, I was married two years before little Ricky was born!”

That said, I have to call a spade a spade. The plague of biblical illiteracy is upon us. We must “take arms against a sea of troubles, and thus by opposing, end them.” But as long as we accept them, they will exist and persist.

“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – George Gallup and Jim Castelli

How bad is it? Here is a list of results from various surveys…

  1. Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels
  2. Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples
  3. 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments
  4. 82 percent of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse
  5. 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife
  6. A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife
  7. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham

I’ve personally heard the following:

  1. Is Galatians in the Old or New Testament?
  2. Wasn’t Jacob the guy who got swallowed by the whale?
  3. That’s a book of the Bible?
  4. ALL of the disciples were Jewish?

And many more, that I can’t remember at the moment (and some which are too embarrassing to share).

Conclusion: #FAIL

Let’s face the facts: “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” (A quote by George Barna.) And people like George Barna tend to blame churches, pastors and youth pastors. But is it really their problem? Isn’t the problem the mothers and fathers of the children, who are commissioned to teach their children (read the book of Deuteronomy — Book #5 in the biblical lineup, in case you need help — it’s a constant theme)  the Bible and biblical values? We have not only failed on a personal level by not engaging the biblical record ourselves, but we have failed the generations of our children, grandchildren and all future generations.

Segue…

We have a breakdown in the process of discipleship. In order to be a true Disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), we must imitate him. But in order to imitate him, we must know his life and message. In order to know his life and message, we must understand his teachings. In order to understand his teachings, we must have a very good understanding of the Bible he used: the Tanak (a.k.a. the “The Old Testament.” And in order to properly understand the Tanak, we must first understand God’s initial self-disclosure to humanity found in the Torah (or the “Pentateuch” — Genesis through Deuteronomy).

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) sums it up quite well by saying:

We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.

Again, this requires effort to correct.

“A person wants to become a scholar and a leader overnight, and to sleep that night as well.”
—Rabbi Yaizel of Navorodock

If we expect to be good disciples sheerly by osmosis, we are sorely mistaken. It requires an investment.

Start your investment today, so that you will have dividends you can enjoy tomorrow.

The Parable of the Soils

scattering seedWhile studying FFOZ’s Torah Club volume 4, Chronicles of the Messiah (a year-long, weekly commentary on the Gospels), this morning, I came across a few things I would like to share in regard to Yeshua’s Parable of the Soils. While this is typically known as the Parable of the Sower, I think his emphasis is more on the different types of soils than the sower. The sower and the seed are the same in every instance. It is only the different soils that affect how the seed is received.

First, a word about parables:

‎”Christian readers sometimes misread and misunderstand the parables of the Master because they assume that they contain deeply symbolic, secret, esoteric, mysterious truths. Christian teachers enjoy extracting unanticipated and hidden meanings from the parables of the Master, but such interpretations are ordinarily farfetched and far removed from the simple intended meaning. The rabbis did not use parables as riddles. They used them as illustrations.” 1

We have to be careful in our interpretation of parables in that we don’t want to “over read” them and “super spiritualize” them as was often the case with the church father Origen. Our job is to catch Yeshua’s intended singular portent, and then apply that principle to our lives as his disciples. With this in mind, I would like to give you a list of how Daniel Lancaster interprets the symbolism in this popular parable:

Symbol Meaning
Seed the message of the kingdom, i.e., “Repent, the Messianic Era is at hand”
Path the disciple who cannot receive (or understand) the message
Birds Satan
Rocky Soil the disciple who begins to repent but gives up quickly under pressure
Weedy Soil the disciple who begins to repent but becomes distracted by the business of life and materialism
Good Soil the disciple who obeys, repents, and submits to the kingdom with perseverance
Abundant Crop good deeds, acts of righteousness (mitzvot)
Meaning Only those who obey the message of the kingdom of heaven and persevere in it will endure to produce fruit for the kingdom of heaven.

;

Where has the seed fallen in your life? What kind of crop are you producing?

  1. Chronicles of the Messiah, p. 486.

Balderdash or No?

man covered in dust

Let’s face it. There is a lot of “balderdash” or “urban legends” that circulate, particularly when it comes to religion. It seems there is hardly a week that goes by in which I do not receive some forwarded email from someone thinking they are doing me a favor by sending me an “inspiring” teaching on how the way Jesus folded the “napkin” after his resurrection alluded to his second coming, or how the blood of Jesus literally flowed down from the cross and onto the hidden Ark of the Covenant beneath the Temple Mount to make atonement for us. It’s just that way. Humans have an innate need for sensationalism to validate our paradigm. However, we need to know fact from fiction and need to always check our sources and be prepared to prove our outlandish propositions with evidence, if we make such claims.

This morning I came across a blog post from Lois Tverberg, which she recently posted as a response to another blog post from about a year ago which attempts to debunk the legitimacy of a popular rabbinic concept often used by Messianics in their teachings.

Back in April of last year, Trevin Wax (Managing Editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources) created a list of “urban legends” within Christianity. While the majority of these were great and need addressing, he included one that didn’t quite fit into the “balderdash” category. The concept he challenged was that of being “covered in the dust of your rabbi”, based off of Avot 1:4, which states:

Yosi ben Yoezer of Tzeredah said: Let your house be a meetinghouse for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.

Fortunately, Lois Tverberg and one other brave soul chimed in with a very thorough (but gentle) rebuttle, but seemed to be completely lost in the 211 comments that erupted from Trevin’s post.

I’m not quite sure why Wax thought this to be an urban legend, particularly since it is based squarely on a reliable Jewish text from antiquity, unless he was merely going on the misunderstanding of other misinformed bloggers who only had one desire: to attack Rob Bell and his use of the concept in his teaching (Dust – which I highly recommend). I think the real breakdown in communication came in that of the attackers thinking the more “Hebraic” or “Messianic” interpretation of this mishnah to be literal, rather than idiomatic. They seem to attack the concept of literally caking on dust while following your rabbi, particularly the origin of the phrase, “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi” (which is obviously a Rob Bell original).

This, however, is not the point of the mishnah. The point is that as disciples of our Master, we are to allow his teachings and his presence to “rub off” onto us so that we are better equipped to emulate him. We are to be constantly following him, constantly sitting at his feet in order learn from him, constantly looking for ways to imitate him. No, we shouldn’t grab a handful of dust and powder ourselves with it to feign our piety. We should, however, be getting a little dirty because of our concern for following our rabbi being greater than our concern for outward appearance.

Are you walking around squeaky clean, or are you beginning to collect the dust of your Rabbi?


ps. Dr. Tverberg – If you are reading this, I would be more than willing to post a review of your latest book, Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus, if I could get my pauperly hands on one (hint, hint).