Welcome to Training Jesus Followers

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

There is an often quoted passage in the Bible from the book of Ephesians (Eph. 4.1-32) where Paul suggests to the Ephesian church that God has provided some gracelets for their training. Eugene Peterson translates a part of that passage this way.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers… (italics mine)

It has occurred to me over the years that one of the dynamics of being a Christian is often left in a state of being anemic because we have become infused with folk theology. What the heck is “folk theology” you may be thinking? Here’s a brief overview of that idea:

Folk theology is unreflective believing, which is based on blind faith in some sort of tradition. This is not a criticism of believers who have not been tutored in formal theology. It is, however, a theology void of critical reflection and embraces simplistic acceptance of beliefs that are built around clichés and legends.

Folk theology can be seen in every religion, denomination, and among those who do not consider themselves a part of a denomination. Spiritual piety and intellectual reflection are seen as antithetical to one another. Folk theology is often experiential and pragmatic; the criteria for true belief are feelings and results. Folk theology is often expressed by Christian bumper stickers, shallow choruses, and clichés. The church has been duped into believing almost anything. One that made the rounds several years ago was that God has hidden a special code in the original text of Scripture that provides the true meaning of the text. Folk theologians often seem to be living by the old quip, “Don’t confuse me with any facts; my mind is already made up.” Folk theology encourages gullibility, vicarious spirituality, and simplistic answers to difficult problems that come when living in a secular and pagan world.

Folk theology begets sacred cows. One can starve and be “tossed by every wind of doctrine” if sacred cows are not butchered. Sacred cows make great gourmet burgers!

Folks simply don’t really know what the Bible says about what they believe because they have been taught implicitly and explicitly how to debate what Scripture says rather than being trained to read Scripture. We have been taught that the Bible is a rule book, one downloaded directly from a heavenly cloud to provide us specific instructions on how to be Christian. Because individualism has consumed us, we have argued our points of view believing that anyone that reads the text other than in a literal sense should be shamed, demonized, and shunned.

There is really nothing wrong with Scripture. However, there is something wrong with the presuppositions that we come to Scripture with. When we try to impose a modern reading impregnated with no regard for the historical and cultural backdrop of the stories that we are reading, we are most likely going to make the text say something other than what its author meant it to say.

So What? Why is this important. Because anemic folk theology produces anemic Jesus followers, like “small children who are an easy mark for impostors,” (Peterson).

Thus, the materials here on Training Jesus Followers are created to help folks discover that there is meaning in the sacred text that is still applicable to those of us living in the twenty-first century and it can be found within the cultural and historical study of the text. Why? As Peterson says, “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.”

We welcome your participation in reading and having conversation about the studies that you will discover here. Why not signup for our mailing list so we can keep you up to date on new and evolving studies.

Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.

Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)