Thursday, March 22, 2007

Godly Entanglement

En-gage – to entangle; to involve.

Recently I defended my doctoral thesis before a committee of faculty at Abilene Christian University. My thesis focused on forming faith in adult seekers, and essentially dealt with the challenge, and the importance, of intentionally helping adult seekers move from a place of interest in the Christian faith and life to a commitment (expressed in baptism) to pursue full participation in God’s kingdom life. My project within the thesis was to develop a small group curriculum designed to help adult seekers form faith that prepares them not just for baptism but for the baptized life.

I passed, which was satisfying, but I was also intrigued and positively challenged by one particular avenue of questioning and probing by my committee. I’ll try to sum it up here and explain why it is apropos for me and, I believe, for West Houston.

The small group curriculum that I and a team of six people from West Houston developed, which is currently offered at West Houston as the “Foundations” Life Group, explores many of the central doctrines of the Christian faith: God’s authority; creation; covenant; Jesus’ incarnation, life and ministry; the Kingdom of God; the Holy Spirit; the spiritual disciplines of scripture reading, prayer, worship, and service; Jesus’ death and resurrection; baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and the Scriptures. It’s a good primer for “understanding” what the Christian faith is about. And there are a number of exercises participants do, such as journaling, reflecting, listening to songs, even watching a TV show, that are designed to help seekers explore the implications of what they are learning about the Christian faith and life.

But here was the question that intrigued and challenged me: “How will this curriculum teach seekers to engage the world as Christians?” In other words, how will it teach them to “be like Jesus” in the world and to the world? I believe this touches on a weak point in my life and in the life of many suburban churches: What are we doing as ambassadors and servants of Christ for those outside the church? I am not speaking only of evangelism but of service to the poor, the marginalized, and even the “well-to-do” who are far from God. When I read Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 of “the sheep and the goats,” Jesus isn’t real concerned with how much his followers know; he’s concerned with who they help.

I heard of a church whose elders arranged for every deacon to ride with a police patrol car on the late night shift and report back what they saw. Suffice it to say that they saw a different “world” than the one in which they spent most of their time, and it gave them a different picture of what “being Jesus to the world” might look like.

As we work through our Take the Next Step initiative at West Houston, which is producing a tremendous and inspiring number of ideas and possibilities for future ministry efforts, we will want to ask ourselves this challenging question: What will we do to engage the world?


Blogger DeShee said...

Just dropping by to say congrats on completing and doing well on your thesis. And also, I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon today.

I also want to thank you for the comment that you made about staying involved in the world without becoming part of it. I especially liked the story you told about going out with the fraterinity and getting coffee. Thank you for that sermon.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Clyde said...

Congrats, Matt, on defending the thesis. I would love to share your "Foundations" material with a young woman I just baptized, if you have it available to others. If that is still in the works, I hope to get a copy of it whenever you get it ready for distribution/for sale. It sounds really helpful.

Hope to see you at AGST in May. Blessings, Clyde

7:27 AM  
Blogger Matt Soper said...

I am happy to send it to you, Clyde.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Matt Soper said...

You will need to email me directly at in order for me to have your return address.

10:45 AM  

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