March 4, 2008

Discipling with Words . . .

Although I definitely do not prescribe to the thoughts that modern or postmodern psychological arguments or theories are the penultimate authority, I do believe that there are some good premises in those fields. These fields of study are just as any other human endeavor, they are subject to being tainted by the fallen human nature. So with that said, let's take a look at what one of its members said.

Lev Vygotsky

Lev was a psychologist, was born in 1896 in Orsha, in the Russian Empire (today in Belarus). Vygotsky was tutored privately by Solomon Ashpiz and graduated from Moscow State University in 1917. Later, he attended the Institute of Psychology in Moscow (1924–34), where he worked extensively on ideas about cognitive development, particularly the relationship between language and thinking. His writings emphasized the roles of historical, cultural, and social factors in cognition and argued that language was the most important symbolic tool provided by society. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Vygotsky said that we think in words. I can’t have thoughts that I don’t have the words to think those thoughts with. Many people that are bilingual probably think in the language that is native or more comfortable. I have neighbors that are Russian and Colombian, and every time I hear them speak to each other, they do it in their native tongue.

A tribe in the bush that did not have a word for tomorrow, never tried to save food or water or other necessities for tomorrow. They lived only for today. Ethnically/socially/culturally do we think differently and are unable to comprehend and positively affect the culture they are in.

Look at the vocabulary of today's teens.

Sic = cool, the best, apart from the rest.

WHATEVER = a Nihilist thought of this whole life that seems to be prevalent among teens.

Scripture says that there comes times when the groaning of our heart is the only thing that we have to offer up to God in prayer. The scripture says that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

Also, in marriage, the sexual act may serve the purpose also to communicate to your partner the feelings and love that you have for them. Hopefully, that is not the only way for you. There are other ways to communicate love to your helpmate.

What about as it relates to discipling students?

Speaking the Language of the Faith

We need to get our students to understand the faith, right? How can I get them to not look at me on Wednesday nights like they are hearing new things all the time?

They need to understand the language.

Small groups are great for this. If this generation of students are going to be the revival generation it will be helpful, and I believe necessary, foSoul-Searching-coverr them to understand the language of the faith.

Christian Smith, in his groundbreaking research study THE NATIONAL STUDY OF YOUTH AND RELIGION, exposed several conclusions about the factors that lead students to understand their faith and practice it in a regular manner. One of the most intriguing conclusions that I picked up on concerning the articulation in the language of the faith.

Smith's study can be read in detail in his book, Soul Searching, The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

What Are Articulate Christians?

When Dr. Smith conducted his interviews he asked teenagers what do they believe. Many times it seemed as if students never had been asked that before, or at the very least had never thought about their answer.

By contrast the teenagers could articulate what they thought or believed about AIDS, STD's, safe sex, drugs, and other socially pertinent subjects. So, the question that begs an answer is this: Can a faith that one cannot talk about be real to the person?

The answer is not cut and dry, however, the sincerity and depth of the faith almost always can be determined as not very significant.

How do we get Faith in their vocabulary?

Two other observations strike a cord with me.

First, we as Christian Educators should not shy away from teaching our teenagers about the deeper things of the scriptures. Schools demand that our teens learn the intricacies of calculus, writing essays in great detail, and how the anatomy of living creatures works, so why can't we expect them to understand the deeper things of scripture?

For one, I believe that the deeper things can't be taught if they are not understood by the educators wether they are a student pastor, volunteer worker, or parent. Another reason that we can't teach the deeper things of scripture is a fascination with the big stuff that does not lend itself to teaching in a more intimate setting that is conducive to teaching in a way that breeds DISCUSSION. . .We can teach overarching themes, such as Christology, in our weekly student gatherings, but where is that concept being taken deeper?

Second, we need to create groups that help get our students into discussion about the things of the faith. First off, parents should be doing this in the home with students. That is their God-given responsibility, and we should encourage that not to happen by marginalizing parents in student ministry. Make them evident parts of the ministry. In addition, we create these small groups for discussion, interaction, and depth of conversation with the added benefit of inserting another caring adult into the lives of a teenager.

Teenagers can be skewed to think nobody cares for them. If we equip parents to disciple their teens, we come along side families as student pastors, and we involve another caring adult into the life of a student to teach, train, and love on them I believe that we will eventually produce a teenager that can articulate their faith.


  • It is very important that we grow up teenagers that understand and can talk about their faith in a way that demonstrates that they understand and own their faith. We have to grow their vocabulary.
  • It takes parents, student pastors, and other caring adults to surround teenagers with the environment to learn. Multiple adults in the life of a teenager is necessary.
  • If a person can not verbalize their faith it can be surmised that 1. they have not been properly disciples and 2. their faith is not authentic to them.

Wether or not Iddo used small groups are not is irrelevant. The main thing is that he had a job to produce young men who could fulfill the purpose of the Lord in the Temple and he did it. That is our calling: Produce teenagers that are capable of fulfilling the calling of God on their life.

They must be able to articulate their faith to a fallen world.