In vocational training, the most effective programs use the movements and activities of the intended end. This is why apprenticeship and internship remain required elements in courses of study like psychology and business. I am beginning to realize that Christian training has much in common with vocational training.
What does this mean for the educational practices of the gathered Body?
Some insight can be gained from the educational notion of praxis. Here practice and theory are interwove, each intentionally informing the other. Practice is an expression of underlying theory (whether overtly or covertly); we use known theory to reflect on these underlying theories in order to correct and improve the theories and the practices based upon them.
When properly administered, apprenticeship and internship programs are applications of praxis, guiding the learner in intentional reflection on both theory and practice. Two related goals are in mind: proper theory and proper practice. Both are necessary.
In most so-called discipleship programs, the notion of praxis is nowhere to be found–unless our intended vocation is small group participant or some such. On the other hand, if our intended vocation is a life well-lived, expressing our passions and cultural language and moving toward the twin goals of Christlikeness and proper image-bearing, then most of our discipleship programs need to be scrapped and regrown from the ground up. And the ground from which they must be regrown is not the classroom; it is the dining room, the morning commute, our daily chores, and the work day.
Now, I am a fan of the classroom and small group Bible study and I think they have a place in our practice. I’ve neither desire nor inclination to thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water. But let us keep one thing clear in our minds: classroom instruction and group Bible study are not Christian training. The car ride home probably is.
What might this look like in an actual, real life gathering of Christians?
I don’t know yet, but I’m excited to find out.