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Sheep in classrooms


What they Hear

Young shepherds with wonderful intentions typically begin their journey in seminary. Most have a dream to "do a church differently" in a way that will truly impact their world. However, most come out the other end leading churches that look and act like the ones they were determined not to emulate. What happened? In seminary they are the sheep, and like good sheep they will follow the biblical mandate to learn and do as their shepherds taught and did. This is how anyone learns most anything: emulating those who are supposedly in the know. In most seminaries they are taught all about living the Great Commandment, but what do they see?

Do they see the model of Jesus in practice, or do they just hear a lot about what Jesus did by their professors? Do they see their shepherds gathering them as groups of disciples, to take them out into the real world to practice with them what they teach—like Jesus did? With rare exception what our young to-be church planters see are classrooms filled with students learning lessons from professors, and taking written exams to prove their prowess without having to learn practical lessons of life. Here shepherding is replaced with teaching, and the potential disciple has become but a student. So these sheep follow their shepherds to the next step of the Classroom Paradigm…

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Being good sheep, these seminary graduates follow their shepherd's lead as they plant new or lead existing churches. They teach without leading, think they're fulfilling Jesus' mandate to make disciples, yet end up wondering what ever happened to their original dream. They know they're supposed to "make disciples," so they train small group leaders [their "sheep"] to do the work they now can't see themselves accomplishing, what with all the demands of teaching and facilities The Classroom requires. They teach their small group leaders all about loving God and their neighbor in the hopes that they will raise up men who run with Jesus. But what do these small group leaders see and therefore follow?

Do the sheep in the small groups see their shepherds gather them as Jesus gathered His, and take them out into the community to run? No, because that's not the model they observed. With rare exception, what they see is just another classroom on a smaller scale. This is why most small groups look more like mini-church services than training grounds for disciples. This is why the basis of most small groups is study topic rather than mission. So the sheep of the small group shepherds naturally follow them to the next step, as the Classroom Paradigm trickles down through the ranks.

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  The trickle down effect


Sheep and follow the leader  

The Classroom inevitably filters down to around [according to the polls] 90% of men who have been sitting in the back rows for years. They've heard numerous sermons about balancing learning with action from shepherds passionately pleading with them to get off the sidelines and into the game. They've been to seminars, and read enough books and listened to enough tapes to fill a library, but to no avail. To the dismay of his shepherds, the average guy just will not get out of the building and into the great adventure. He will not be obedient to their commands, no matter how correctly and passionately they are presented to him.

This leads to the revolving door of the modern church, where sheep wander from church to church feeling largely bored and "unfed." The world also sees all of this and brands us as hypocritical, despite all of our preaching about Jesus, love, and being different.

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If The Classroom model is not alive and well, then:

  • Why is it we keep filling ever-bigger buildings with churchgoers, and yet still are having relatively little impact upon real needs in our communities?
  • Why will members go to the church multiple times weekly for practices, meetings, meals, studies, etc, and yet so few will leave the building to follow Jesus "out there?"
  • How are we able to raise billions of dollars every year for the construction or remodeling of our temples, while the needy at our doorsteps must count on government assistance?
  • Why, with all of the many sermons preached every Sunday about evangelizing and serving our neighbors, are so few of the sheep actually engaged?
  • To summarize, why is there so much going on inside the buildings and so little outside?

Because sheep follow shepherds, and in the buildings is where they find them!

The Classroom model results in new sheep coming in, being satisfied with our teaching and programs for awhile, then growing increasingly disillusioned and finally leaving in search of excitement again. It caused the Reveal study by Willow Creek to conclude that disciples were the group of people most likely to leave the church. Theory without practice never fulfills men: not in business nor in life. Christian men are dying to experience Jesus, and quickly tire of hearing without experiencing. RECONNECTIONS exists to help churches of any size break out of The Classroom model, and embrace the John 15 model of loving God and their neighbor through the proper balance of instruction and practice Jesus modeled as He made disciples who ran!

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  Dont believe it

Finding the Heartbeat video

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