Many years ago, I led a Bible study group that appeared to me to be made up of clever, enthusiastic young people who were periodically stripped of the ability to speak. Chatting before and after about a whole range of things was fine; but during the study, any question I asked the group about the Bible passage—even the simplest comprehension question—was met with stony silence. It was like a verbal game of chicken: whoever speaks first loses.
I eventually worked out that there were several contributing factors to this phenomenon:
- I was several years older than the first-year uni students who made up the group
- in comparison to them I was extroverted, loud, and obnoxious1
- most importantly, they were high-achievers straight out of high school and they were terrified of saying something wrong.2
I understand that feeling. I hate getting things wrong, and I’m gripped at really odd times by a certainty that I’m about to publicly do something incorrect. When I preach at church, for example, I check about ten times that the Bible reading is actually the one for which I’ve prepared. Perhaps you don’t share quite that level of obsession, but I don’t know many people who really embrace being wrong, or relish having it pointed out by others.
The reason I raise this is to give you a chance to prepare yourself to hear what may be a different point of view on some pretty significant issues. Paul Grimmond and George Athas both write about ideas that are almost unchallenged assumptions in our culture at large and in particular in our Christian culture: the Protestant doctrine of ‘vocation’ on the one hand, the concept of inalienable individual rights on the other. Obviously I think there’s a lot to commend here, but they are each pointing out that we may need some correction on some foundational issues.
There’s more to this issue than that, however. Peter Hughes talks about understanding and dealing with depression as a Christian. Sandy Grant surveys some evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus. Raj Gupta helps us to build a Christian framework for reading, understanding and using secular business and leadership models in church contexts. Marty Sweeney and I review a couple of great Christian books. I’m sure you’ll find at least something in this issue that encourages and spurs you on in following Jesus.
I never like having it pointed out that I’m in the wrong, but I know that I often need it. Like most things, this issue of The Briefing isn’t the last word on these matters, but I hope it stimulates some good discussion about how we approach community engagement and life in general under the sun.