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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Don’t Do As I do; Do as I say

Written by: on April 1, 2020

I learned as a parent that things are more often caught than taught. As a child, when I asked my Dad “why?”, his response was usually “because I said so!” Though this was never a satisfactory answer I did understand it was his way of saying he was the boss. Every parent learns there is a time when actions speak louder than words. When our actions contradict a belief or action, we are trying to teach our children, we are basically telling them to not do what we are doing but do what we say is right. One case in point was when we were teaching our children about swearing and using inappropriate language. As parents we knew that if we used words that we were telling our children were inappropriate, as well as disciplining them for the use of these words, we were setting a double standard. The importance of leading by example became very real one evening when we sat down as a family to watch a movie. As the G rated movie progressed, one of the characters said one of the words we classified as inappropriate. As an adult I had heard much worse but when the eyes of four young children all of a sudden focused on me to see how I was going to respond, it became apparent that I had a choice to make. That choice was going to either support the moral lesson we wanted our children to learn or contradict it. Nothing was said. I just turned the television off. My kids never complained. I wish I could say I have always been that good of an example to my kids in everything, but I would be lying if I did.

Both Christian Smith in his book Lost In Transition and Kenda Creasy Dean in her book Almost Christian focus on the challenges that face young people in the American culture. Interestingly, both authors also focused on the aspect of parental influence on a young person’s beliefs. Dean states “Perhaps parents and teenagers do not argue much about religion because they seem to believe almost the same thing.”[1]  She explains that many teens mirror their parents’ religious beliefs. Christian Smith claims that parents are teaching their kids and they are learning the lessen well. “We in the older adult world are failing youth and emerging adults in these crucial ways because our own world is itself also failing in those same ways.”[2] Long ago I heard that if as parents we don’t instill our convictions into our kids, our convictions will be only beliefs to them. If they in turn don’t instill their beliefs into their children, they become nothing more than myths. Though I don’t remember where I heard this, it has proven more than once to be true.

Charles Taylor seems to shed light on this in his book A Secular Age. His study on secularization reaches far beyond the removal of God from public spaces and the decline of religious attendance. He focuses on the conditions of belief and how we now have a space for unbelief within a culture that was once focused on a belief in God. It is this space of unbelief that has brought with it a lack of concern for others and a focus on personal material gain. Taylor later states that one of the results of this material gain mindset, often reinforced in our business educational system, is a lack of empathy toward others. Life has been reduced to a code of conduct based on a strong sense of personal discipline. This leads to a broad sense of morality focused on getting one’s life together through an act of self-control.[3] All one has to do is look at the self-help section on Amazon to see the value in Taylor’s insight. Taylor discusses what he calls the Modern Moral Order. Within the Modern Moral Order is the exploration that in a humanistic culture human sympathy along with a desire for universalism leads to the idea that the highest level of morality is human dignity. Taylor explains, “we can say that we owe it to our own dignity to act this way, and this is what the moral source consists in. That is, this is what one can appeal to, oneself or another, to bring us into line with what we ought to do.”[4]

How does one navigate a secular culture that places the pinnacle of morality on human dignity? What do we do with a gospel that calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross (Luke 9:23), as well as, warns us against exalting ourselves and becoming humble (Luke 14:11)? How do we convey a gospel to the Modern Moral Order that states that in order to find life we need to lose it for the sake of Christ? (Mt. 10:39) Could it be that we don’t really understand the Apostle Paul’s call “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called?” (Eph.4:1) Paul prays for his readers to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit in their inner man (3:16), to be grounded in love and to know the vastness of the love of Christ (3:18) in order to walk in a manner worthy. This calling is to be done in humility, gentleness, patience, and long suffering in love for one another. (Eph. 4:2) Could it be that we forget that we cannot through personal effort or human dignity raise ourselves up to walk in a worthy manner? We walk through and out of the power of the gospel. Only in Christ are we worthy. This is the glory of the gospel.

 [1] Kendra Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling The American Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 18

[2]Christian Smith, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, (New York: Oxford university Press, 2011), 238

[3] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2007) 398-99

[4] Charles Taylor, 694

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

10 responses to “Don’t Do As I do; Do as I say”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, those are all solid questions. I think for Christians, we have to unravel the narratives we’ve told ourselves and see where we’ve diverged from the True Narrative that we’ve seen God writing throughout history. I was talking to a friend about this the other day about how in our own life stories, we have subplots that diverge from the main story where the “character development” takes place. It may be that part of these subplots are diving into the Modern Moral Order for a time, but a subplot that is not resolved into the main story is not complete. We have to keep in the back of our minds that our subplots aren’t the main story; once we mix them up, we lose the narrative we’ve been living and searching for.

  2. mm Jer Swigart says:

    I was thinking about you and your project as I read this week. Seems faith has been simplified to a take-it-or-leave-it moral code. The take-its are the sacreds and the leave-its are the seculars. From my view and through these lenses, there are far more leave-its than take-its in US American culture. What is a first pivot the church can make as they seek to equip parents to cultivate their children into disciples?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Wow! There seems to be a selective mentality in the American church whether conservative of liberal in ones theological approach. We easily discard things we disagree with and cling to things that align with our thoughts without struggling with how either side aligns with scripture or with the life of Jesus in the gospels.

      Churches need to be real about life and stop acting like they have it all together. They don’t and that’s ok. That’s why we need Jesus.
      One thing that my wife and I found pivotal in our relationship with our kids was honest transparency as they grew older. Several occasions come to mind during their early teen years but one that I feel was key to having my children see the importance of our faith. Several years ago I blew up a well paying career due to character flaws and sin in my life. My wife and I knew we could have passed this off as something other than what it was but also knew that with children in their late teens that sooner or later they deserved the truth of why we now had to make some major financial adjustments. Why financial commitments toward college had changed.
      As we all gathered around the living room I told them the PG version of the wounds and choices that led to losing my job. I asked for forgiveness for failing my kids as a father and spiritual leader. My wife an I professed our love and commitment to one another and our children. We explained how we saw the bridge of restoration progressing. We cried, prayed and loved on each other. Many years later they still thank us for being real and allowing them to see the reality of life and the restorative power of God. One of the most powerful things we can show our kids is the true reality of following Jesus. The highs the lows that doubts, fears and hopes. Faith in Jesus isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s hard work and costs you your life.

  3. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    The Modern Moral Order sound much like the Protestant Ethic. Fear based living rarely moves us in the direction of Christ. How do we move to the heart of Jesus as seen in scripture when it’s been co-opted by hundreds of years of gross discipleship woven with capitalism and secularism? If there’s no common memory of a people, it’s difficult to reclaim that which has been lost.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Darcy,
      I think it is wise to keep in mind that church history and the new testament show us there has never been a time when the church hasn’t struggled with human frailties in one fashion or another. We often look back in time with rose colored glasses with a sense of nostalgia dreaming of better days when looking at the church. History doesn’t always expose the underlying issues and darkness beneath the things we read. Throughout history sin disguised as power and erogence have affected the church. Christian family differences have always existed. It was once a heresy to pronounce Jesus as God but now it is essential doctrine. Paradigms shift, mistakes are made, resolutions reached and the church survives. There is no doubt the church has issues and people get hurt. I truly wish this wasn’t the case. We need to do better, but whose vision of the church is correct? Whose view of church is flawless? Is love and unity possible without total agreement when it comes to doctrine and biblical convictions? Is it possible to agree in basic principles without having to agree in practice? Despite the fact that the church has feet of clay God still shows up and uses broken people to bring healing to the broken hearted. The Modern Moral Order and the secularization of society and in many ways the church is here. The ultimate question is how do we stay true to the gospel in the midst our current culture.

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Greg, I’m not surprised you used Charles Taylor as a conversation partner for these voices – good choice. Who are some of your other key voices in your work?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Shawn,
      I have broken my research voices into 3 sections.

      Sacred and Secular: focusing on secular and secularization
      Charles Taylor ( I am using the works of James KA Smith: he was one of my professors when I took my masters: as a secondary voice to Taylor).
      Emile Durkheim (one of the first sociologist to study religion using the dichotomy of sacred and profane)
      Pippa Norris a secondary voice ( a political scientist who has researched the worldwide religious trends of religions and politics worldwide)

      1st Amendment religious influences
      Nicholas Miller (his work on the religious roots of the first amendment is worth a read)
      Chris Beneke: his work on early American pluralism
      Alister McGrath: reformation and protestant history
      William Estep: First Amendment history from 1612 – 1789

      Theology of Vocation
      Martin Luther: his “priesthood of all believers” has had huge influence in theology and politics.
      R Paul Stevens: his view on calling and the damage of the dichotomy between laity and clergy
      Darrell Cosden: his view on work and the new creation looking at Volf and Moltmann
      Ben Worthington III: his view on vocation and the everyday mundane aspects of life.

      These are the main ones at this time. Over the next 5 or 6 months I am sure things may shift a bit.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    In my own parenting I’ve certainly had many opportunities to walk the kids through a decision I made rather than just impose that decision upon them. Some days were better than others. What I’ve noticed is how much more effort it takes to include them in the process- the questions, the counter-proposals, as well as the age-appropriate ability to comprehend in a rational way. The challenge is that if we don’t invest the time and energy, we really give the kids no choice but to either go along or to rebel. I always marvel at how hard Jesus worked with his disciples!

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      John,
      I wonder why it is that we tend to see inclusion of others in the process as effort? I am often the same way. In many cases it can be much faster to exclude others in the process. Is it possible that no matter what our calling is we are all called to be in the people business? It seems to me that the power of the gospel makes little sense in a world of isolation and individualism.
      The purpose of a train engine isn’t to travel as fast as it can from point A to Point B. It was designed for one purpose, to pull train cars to a designated destination. It can travel much faster alone and burn less fuel but alone it will never fulfill its purpose. As parents, pastors, leaders, and believers we are designed to lead others toward Christ. We can do it alone but can we truly fulfill our purpose if we do?

  6. mm Steve Wingate says:

    Okay, you got me on the first line! “I learned as a parent that things are more often caught than taught.” What we see happening in others just might be what we are impressing upon others through judgement or respect. Reading your work reminded me of what I have been experiencing this week.

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