Keeping Faith Keeping Secrets

A Set of Discussion Guides

A Set of Discussion Guides

Kathy Wolf Reed, M.Div

by: Kathy Wolf Reed, MDiv.
for @This Point, fall 2010
“Touchdown Jesus:
On the Wages of Discipleship in America”


Session One

“Touchdown Jesus: On the Wages of Discipleship in America”
Jonathan Malesic

Concept
The purpose of this first session is to explore Jonathan Malesic’s claim that American Christians have contributed to public way of life in which the “distinctive witness” of Christian identity has given way to the practice of faith as a means for self-advancement and financial gain. Participants will be challenged to consider how their own Christian identity plays out in the public arena, as well as whether or not they agree with Malesic’s historically founded argument for a more solid divide between the sacred and secular realms of society.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute discussion period. Leaders are welcome to make adjustments according to the group’s needs and circumstances.

Goal
The goals of this session are a) to encourage participants to use both Scriptural and personal resources as they consider the pros and cons of Malesic’s position, b) to use Malesic’s illustration of Christian identity and professional athletics to think about other realms of public life where Christian identity may influence consumers, and c) to begin to think about what methods of discipleship are currently present in the participants’ own communities of faith, and what these methods communicate to the public about Christian identity.

Objectives
Participants will:

Preparation

Materials

Sequence
Opening – (5 min)

Explore – (10 min)

Encounter – (25 min)

Respond – (5 min)

Closing
Close with prayer, using your own words or the following:

O God who comes to us in Jesus,
the One who lived in this world
in ways both bold and gentle
in ways both outspoken and kind
in ways that now challenge us to speak truth to power
but always in and out of Christ’s love.
We pray that in our lives your Holy Spirit
would give us courage to proclaim your word
and the wisdom to do it in ways
that renounce self-interest
and embrace the grace and love
you have so freely given to us.
Amen.


Session Two
:
“Bushels and Lampstands, Loose Lips and Martyrs: A Response to Jonathan Malesic”
Pamela Cooper-White


Concept

The purpose of the second session is to consider the main aspects of Pamela Cooper-White’s response to Jonathan Malesic’s lead article. While Malesic argues for greater separation (or secrecy) between Christian witness and the public realm, Cooper-White challenges readers to explore the numerous and complex meanings of the terms “public”, “secrecy”, and “witness”. Participants will be challenged to consider how their theological perspectives, denominational traditions, and personal contexts shape their definitions of these terms.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute discussion period. Leaders are welcome to make adjustments according to the group’s needs and circumstances.

Goal
The goals of this session are a) to further explore Cooper-White’s definitions of “public”, “secrecy”, and “witness” and how they affect the interpretation of Malesic’s lead article b) to decide if, given Cooper-White’s definitions, there is need for or room in participants’ faith communities for secrecy c) to use Scriptural references and personal experience to articulate one’s perspective on what it means to be a Christian witness in public life.

Objectives
Participants will:

Preparation

Materials

Sequence
Opening– (5 min)

Explore – (10 min)

Encounter – (25 min)

Respond – (5 min)

Closing
Close with prayer, using your own words or the following:

Merciful God,
who knows all our secrets,
we pray that as we find faithful ways to share your good news,
you would be a constant source of wisdom and grace.
In the pieces of our lives that happen behind closed doors
and in the moments when we fling those doors wide open,
we pray your Holy Spirit would urge us be
ever-humble,
ever-compassionate,
ever-prayerful,
and ever-faithful,
just as Jesus, in whose name we pray, taught us to live.
Amen.


Session Three
Confrontational Secrets: A Response to Jonathan Malesic’s “Touchdown Jesus: On the Wages of Discipleship in America”
E. Elizabeth Johnson


Concept

The purpose of the third session is to consider the main aspects of E. Elizabeth Johnson’s response to Jonathan Malesic’s lead article. As Johnson affirms Malesic’s warning against Christianity employed as “a form of currency in our political and economic marketplaces”, she also creates complexity within his argument by citing numerous Scriptural and historical references that demonstrate the various functions of secrecy. Participants will use both Scripture and experience to distinguish between secrets that confront and secrets that protect, exploring how secrecy functions in their own faith community versus Christian communities facing persecution for their witness.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute discussion period. Leaders are welcome to make adjustments according to the group’s needs and circumstances.

Goal
The goals of this session are a) to explore Johnson’s illustration of the various functions of secrecy with regard to Malesic’s lead article b) to consider various Biblical references to secrecy as they relate to the participants’ own faith community c) to imagine the implications of secrecy in contexts where Christianity is not a part of mainstream culture.

Objectives
Participants will:

Preparation

Materials

Sequence
Opening – (5 min)

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God,
for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

Ask participants to look through the list they have created and decide which, if any, of these examples could be seen as violating the third commandment. What constitutes the line between practicing Christian witness and making wrongful use of God’s name?

Explore – (10 min)

Encounter – (25 min)

Respond – (5 min)

Closing
Close with prayer, using your own words or the following:

Holy God,
Each and every day your mystery surrounds and compels us.
Though we may never fully understand your will and your ways,
in Jesus Christ you have given us the assurance
that you will never forsake us.
Today we pray for faithful Christians
whose proclamation of your good news places their lives in danger.
Let us not take for granted the many freedoms we enjoy
as ones who may worship without fear.
Help us to seek you faithfully,
please you humbly,
and love you fiercely,
so that others may be led to do the same.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen.

 

Session Four
A Response to Touchdown Jesus: The Wages of Discipleship in America
Timothy A Beach-Verhey


Concept

The purpose of the fourth and final session is to explore Timothy A Beach-Verhey’s response to Jonathan Malesic’s lead article. While Malesic advocates for “a buffer between the public life of the streets and the liturgical life of the church”, Beach-Verhey is quick to point out two significant dangers to this approach: “arrogance and triumphalism” among Christians as well as the abandonment of the world “to the spirits of the age.” Participants will explore the idea of arrogance and perfectionism in the practice of Christianity as well as how “Christianity has been reduced to just another choice in a marketplace crammed with pleasingly packaged options.

Timeframe
The lesson is written for a 45-minute discussion period. Leaders are welcome to make adjustments according to the group’s needs and circumstances.

Goal
The goals of this session are a) to explore the two main dangers that Beach-Verhey finds in Malesic’s argument b) to understand how Christians individually and as a community struggle to resist “the sprits of the age” c) to use Scripture as a guide to what it means to live a life of Christian witness that is both public and faithful.

Objectives
Participants will:

Preparation

Materials

Sequence
Opening – (5 min)

“…they impoverish us morally and spiritually.”

Do you think this is true? How do we avoid these false messiahs (or “spirits of the             age”) in a world that seems so dependent upon them?

Explore – (10 min)

Encounter – (25 min)

Respond – (5 min)

Closing
Close with prayer, using your own words or the following:

Gracious God,
we stand humbled today by the overwhelming forgiveness
you offer us in Jesus Christ.
We confess with humility that so often
we do place our identity in false messiahs
we deny you, just as Peter did.
But knowing that even Peter could serve your purposes
on this earth, however imperfectly,
we pray that you would empower us to do the same.
Help us to be visible in our witness,
however flawed it may be at times,
and to live lives that reflect
the love and gratitude we feel for you.
Amen.

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Response Articles
Confrontational Secrets E. Elizabeth Johnson

Visible, but not Perfect Timothy A Beach-Verhey

Bushels and Lampstands, Loose Lips and Martyrs Pamela Cooper-White

Author's Response
A Set of Discussion Guides Kathy Wolf Reed, M.Div

Reply Jonathan Malesic

Resources
Editor's Notes
A Note From the Editor Mark Douglas
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