Conversion and conversions will be themes of this blog for the next couple of weeks. This series on Chrysalis is about Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Today’s comes from Mark Farmer.
The final chapter of Alan Jamieson?s Chrysalis, entitled ?Butterfly House – beautifully hopeful,? describes a congregation which has renounced its vested interest in keeping its members stuck in the first stage of faith development. ?Butterfly houses care for every stage of the life cycle. The people who run the butterfly houses understand each phase of the butterfly life-cycle and with this knowledge they carefully nurture each stage, seeking to provide the food sources and contexts each stage needs.? (108)
The vision is attractive, even compelling.
But how can I as a pastor preach to, teach, and lead people of all three stages at once? Not by trying to force those in the earlier stages to progress more quickly than they are ready to. Wisdom doesn?t need to push people, but values them for who they are today. Tomorrow will come.
One key is to help my hearers seek to know God and people and the Bible more and more as they really are, with a willingness to set aside received ideas of them when necessary. This intent can unite the three stages in a common quest.
?Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults? (I Cor. 14:20; also 13:11). Paul intends for Christians to move beyond the pre-critical stage. How does Paul teach Christians to think like adults? How does he model it? By bringing out the breadth and complexity of the biblical narrative instead of leaving his readers with an inaccurately simplistic understanding. Romans 2 on circumcision and Romans 9 on the people of God in relation to biological Israel are good examples. Jesus, too, used Scripture to challenge people to think and to question their received interpretations of Scripture. Scripture itself challenges erroneously simplistic interpretations that are made of it.
Paul?s discussion of the ?strong? and the ?weak? in I Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14 provides a pastoral model for ministering to the various stages. The ?strong? (stage 3) are to be careful not to despise the ?weak? (1 & 2) or cause them to stumble. And the ?weak? must gently be led to (desire to) grow.
It helps to consider ?what I was taught? (by parents and teachers and authors and mentors) when I was a young Christian as a starting point from which to grow and learn from God himself and from many other teachers. And to consider what I teach to others as a starting point for them. Attitudes of obedient devotion to Christ, curiosity, and teachability, coupled with tools for loving God with all our minds, such as inductive reasoning, critical analysis, imagination and discernment, and values such as getting to know God and people for what they really are, help all three stages grow into what they were made to become.
I?m off to visit our local butterfly house (of the entomological sort)!