I just completed a three-week series with the good folks at Nappanee Missionary Church. It was a great format – a roundtable discussion with the pastors on the various topics. We had so much good stuff to discuss that the challenge was getting it all done in the one hour time slot.
For the first session, we touched on “Engaging Culture” and started with the fundamental ways that people view culture. We then moved in week two to a specific focus on youth, and then finished the series looking at ten fundamental shifts in our society today. The latter was the most touchy, but my favorite, because we looked past behavioral and temporal issues (e.g. teen risk behavior) and exposed the underlying changes taking place – from globalization to 24/7 technology to dietary issues.
Despite my years of public speaking, I still am surprised by how much I still have to learn, especially when working with difficult material.
- There is a big gap between the academic world and everday thinking. I think those of us who have a foot in the academic world see this gap the best, but I’m still surprised how the language of higher education isn’t a common language. I wish more scholars understood this. And it makes me more passionate to work well at explaining difficult material in accessible ways.
- We get our information in byte-sized chunks. And this is not age-dependent. Sound-byte media outlets have raised our intolerance for information that takes longer than 30-45 seconds to understand. I now feel like an invisible stopwatch is started when I dive into a new point and I have to get it done in an understandable way. I’m getting better at this, but it’s always a struggle.
- Effective teaching demands effective illustration. So, as the stopwatch begins, I need to find ways to communicate “handles” for people to use. Visual illustration is one of the easiest and most effective. I just used this strategy today and I could see the “I get it” looks on students faces as I led this simple visual exercise.
- Culture is a tough subject. I loved my time at NMC, a church led by some amazing pastors and a congregation of 3000 commited to effectively engaging the world. But even at NMC, we could tell that as we uncovered some of these deeply-rooted patterns, it was a difficult conversation. Cultural change is hard, and we sometimes confuse the issues, making them political or economic when they’re theological and about charity.
It’s to this that I am committed: Raising up people of integrity and wisdom who can lead, work, or minister effectively and gracefully in the emerging global culture. I’m thankful for NMC for allowing me to partner with them this month in that endeavor.