We Should Empower You - Vince Brackett

Fourth in the series: Filling In Our Gaps



Before moving in a direction toward pastoring, my vocational goal was to be a high school teacher I graduated from Chicago’s DePaul University with an undergraduate degree in secondary education And one really fascinating thing that’s often discussed in training future educators (and which has stayed with me) is Retention Rates What percentage of what we take in do we really learn? (Like: we retain it, internalize it, and can therefore readily recall it going forward) Efforts to study Retention Rates distinguish between the effectiveness of different Teaching Methods What’s been passed on most popularly is a diagram called “the Learning Pyramid” Like all theories on human behavior, it is just a theory and has its limitations But, nonetheless, I have found it helpful!

It says that, in general ... The Lecture teaching method has a 5% retention rate So I’m clearly off to a great start this morning, right? And if you laughed at that, I’m in real trouble, because your 5% is filling up fast BUT WAIT! Is this is a lecture? Or is this a multi-media presentation? As you can see I have words and a diagram on the screen above me, and the Lecture + Reading teaching method has a 10% retention rate And just when you thought that’s all you’re going to remember from this, boom...
[play 15 sec video] Audio/Visual teaching methods have a 20% retention rate

The pyramid continues on suggesting: 30% retention for demonstrations 50% retention for small group discussions 75% retention when someone practices actually doing something And, the one that has always most intrigued me and what I want to spend some time on this morning... 90% retention rate when a learner of something turns around and tries to teach that something to someone else while it is in their short term memory

The best way to learn something, this says, is by teaching it to someone else

There is an episode from the life of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel of Luke, that this makes me think of You may find it familiar if you’ve been through our church’s “Influence” Workshop A very cool -- we think -- 2-session workshop that serves as our orientation for roles of leadership here. If I’ve got you curious, it will be next offered in either May or September so be on the lookout Let me read from Luke, chapter 10

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12

And picking up a few verses later on...

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

So some points of interest from this: First the number “72” Some historians of the life of Jesus and of first century Palestine have suggested that From their understandings of how it worked when a Jewish Rabbi like Jesus would travel and teach... And based on the timeline presented in Luke’s Gospel, and the placement of this story in that timeline, the number 72 is significant... Because that’s a pretty likely estimate for the entire number of people who, at this early point in Jesus’ ministry, would have been following him town to town Not everyone, period, who was showing interest in hearing Jesus teach or seeing Jesus work miracles But in terms of the people who were literally following him as he left one town and came to the next, it’s likely this was all of those people So there’s some real significance in Luke reporting that Jesus sent out 72 In Jesus’ book, it seems, anyone making deliberate choices to follow him was qualified to be sent out in this way And what does he send them out to be doing? Bringing peace to homes and towns At least to those who would receive it… Jesus did want them to know some people they encounter will for whatever reason not be interested in peace, and instead seem to choose cruelty or violence (I think we know this well today too) And he has these 72 he sent out healing sick people And freeing people from oppressive, demonic spirituality and showing them an alternative spirituality That evidently is characterized by joy (it says the seventy-two returned to Jesus joyful) And, most notable for our purposes today, Jesus had these 72 he sent out teaching a specific message that “The Kingdom of God is near” A couple weeks back I talked here on Sunday about the Kingdom of God being Jesus’ favorite topic of conversation We couldn’t begin to unpack in 25 minutes on a Sunday morning the extent of all that was meant by the message “the Kingdom of God is near”... BUT the heartbeat behind such a message was this: God is NOT distant from you God is NOT the cold, removed, morally-corrupt, hypocritical deity that the state of religion around you makes you think he is All is not lost in your life and in the world God is invested in your life and your world... he is near to you and he is caring And he is a King! (he is powerful!) I think it goes without saying the kind of relevance that such a message has to our lives and our world today given the current state of our country It maybe resonates… a little… I guess…

This was THE Jesus message: that the Kingdom of God is near And so, of course, Jesus books the biggest stadium along the Mediterranean Sea And he make sure to have all the microphones in front of him so that he can insure that everyone gets the message straight from him, because he wouldn’t want anyone screwing it up Right? Except no. That’s not at all what he does.

Jesus trusts the teaching of this “the Kingdom of God is near” message to 72 other people He didn’t even go first to make sure people got at least the basics from him Luke says: Jesus sent them ahead of him to towns he had yet to visit And so we get a window into the higher level thing that Jesus is doing in this episode It’s obviously good, inspiring stuff that people in these towns are experiencing as a result of these 72 ambassadors of Jesus They’re getting peace, healing, freedom, teaching about what God is really like… great! BUT, in light of the Learning Pyramid, I wonder if Jesus also has in mind the impact this would have on the 72 he is sending out I’ll bet Jesus said to himself: “Jesus, you don’t want these people to retain 5% or 20% of what you teach them, you want them to retain 90% of what you teach them” Just kidding But seriously, is this not fascinating? This is centuries before the psychological revolution that births studies and theories of human behavior like the Learning Pyramid… But Jesus seems to get human behavior intuitively Jesus sees his mission and message as having more power when it’s more than just him who is empowered Because he knows empowerment, more than anything else, is what really unlocks things for people…
His reflection at the end says it all: this isn’t about who is most wise and learned; on those terms these 72 people were “little children”... But God revealed the joy of life to them because they were empowered Jesus knows if he wants people to retain his teachings, internalize his way of life, learn to live the kind of full, deep, attractive life he did… It’s not about him being empowered, it’s about them being empowered

So a Jesus-centered community (like ours) should totally take this Jesus approach, right? I mean, that’d be downright inspiring, in terms of the impact we could have on our neck of the woods in this world -- bringing peace, healing, freedom, and a message of God’s near-ness And the people who are a part of this community would feel so dang empowered And, my favorite part, everyone here would be retaining 90% of what I say in Sunday morning talks We should totally be doing this!

But, I think, if we’re honest, Kyle and I (as the leaders of this church) have NOT always set us up to do this

Over the past few weeks here we’ve been in a series of talks in which we’ve been acknowledging that, though we love it (hopefully you love it; I love it!), this church, Brown Line Vineyard, has gaps. Just like any individual person, groups of people, communities, churches (ours included) aren't perfect We need constant course correction as we go in order to be all we're meant to. So each week in this series we’ve been doing a bit of (what we’ve called) corporate repentance Pointing to specific ways we hope to improve As we serve you as pastors And as we try to pursue our purpose: helping people into deeper, fuller lives through connection with God

In December and January we marked the turn of the New Year by unpacking an ambitious 2 year plan for our church And we’re very excited about it… check out brownlinevineyard.org/next-big-step

But a humble look at our selves is just as, if not more, important than looking at "our best plans and appearances" or applauding “our greatest past hits”... So Kyle and I have been stepping back and trying to ask thoughtful, critical questions And, more so than we ever have before in the life of this church, we’ve been soliciting feedback from you all -- the people who make up Brown Line Before today’s service is over, you’re going to hear about the biggest way yet we’re trying to do this, so stay tuned… make sure it is part of the 5% you retain today

As I’ve previewed, our corporate repentance this morning is: We have not empowered you all enough We’ve often noted that there is an awesome quality to our church because we are two leaders at the top, not one (that’s got a lot going for it, we believe) BUT an unintended result of this is that we have led ourselves to believe power is more dispersed here than it really is It is dispersed in the sense that there isn’t one lead-pastor, there are two… but beyond that, we’ve failed in a lot of ways to do what Jesus does in Luke 10 We have laid out some perfectly nice and well intentioned offers for you all (and no doubt that’s led to good things for many of us) BUT we’ve often stopped short of empowering you to see yourselves as extensions of this church -- As participants in the purpose of this church… As people who own the offers made to them as things they don’t just receive but that they then turn around and offer to someone else We say that we want you to be stakeholders, but we have too often only asked you to be consumers And if there’s one thing that is not inspiring, it is asking people to be consumers We get plenty of that as American city-dwellers who, according to the last study I saw, encounter as many as 5000 advertisements a day If our church is just another way you’re being encouraged to be a consumer... well, God help us!

Here’s our commitment to you going forward: We want you to experience the joy that Jesus’ 72 ambassadors experienced in Luke 10 So we commit to doing a better job empowering you to be participants in the purpose of this church

Finally, I want to lead us in considering “how can I experience the joy Jesus’ 72 ambassadors experienced right now, this week?” -- here’s my suggestion:

Ask yourself “who is my would-be protégé?” Who is someone in the stage of life you just left, or someone at a level of experience just below you in some role or skill that you can pour into? Someone you can mentor and help grow in life, or in one area of life It doesn’t have to be someone younger than you… No matter how old we are, we all can have areas in life of maturity or expertise This can be at work or in school, or anywhere in life but, specifically, I’d like to empower you to identify a would-be protégé here -- in Brown Line’s community If there is something (anything!) life-giving you have learned or are in the process of learning, and you want it to stay with you for the rest of your life, to truly retain & internalize it… Teach it to someone else! Now is the time for you to pass on what you have to offer To leave the comforts and home of “your own life” and invest in someone else's life Help try to change their life, and you will change yours in the process! Teach them a way to connect with God, and you will learn all the more how to connect with God yourself Even, or maybe especially, if you are feeling stuck in a rut in some way right now... Like you don't feel connected with God in your day to day; you don't feel alive What if, as crazy as it seems, the way out of that for you is to teach someone else to connect with God and feel alive in their day to day? As best you can, with the knowledge you have According to Jesus and to the Learning Pyramid, that's not so crazy

Alright, in a moment I want to pray for us along these lines And then once we’re in that space of prayer, today’s band is going to lead us in a time of song… something spiritual communities have done for centuries to slow down from the pace of life and encounter God at an emotional level. You can engage in whatever way feels best to you. Maybe it is singing along (we’ll have the lyrics up on the screen here). Or maybe it is just sitting back and letting the music hit you.

And, as we are doing that, this morning’s prayer team will be in the back. Any of them would love to pray with you if you’re feeling any kind of sense that God might be speaking to you -- whether you’re feeling that right now or at any point while we’re singing together.
I really want to invite anyone who’s feeling something going on internally to take advantage of this! Powerful things often happen in our prayer times on Sundays. The people on our prayer team are trained and safe folks; no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable or give you unasked for advice, and everything you share is confidential. Stand with me, if you would, and I’ll pray.