Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Disciples Ask

I was reading Matthew 13 today when something jumped out at me from verse 36. The chapter mostly contains a record of Jesus teaching in parables; in verse 36 it says “his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain…’”.

In our consumer-driven culture, we tend to place most responsibility on the encoder rather than the decoder. If something is not understood we blame the teacher, preacher, or leader rather than the pupil, constituent, or follower. We think of the hearer as a customer, placing fewer and fewer demands on the recipient and more and more responsibility on the speaker. The motives here are good ones; we want to speak clearly and connect… we want people to understand and act, thus we want to do all we can to be understood.

I wonder if by placing most of the responsibility on the speaker we end up settling for shallow understanding in the hearers. Borrowing from the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13… do we miss an opportunity for seed to take root and flourish by not demanding more of the hearers?

In my experience as a learner/follower/disciple, my understanding goes deepest when I am forced to engage, when I have to go back and ask for an explanation. Whether learning a lesson from a teacher, boss, or even God, the deepest understanding results from seeking explanations. I know that I am truly a disciple when I am asking, “Explain.”

I’ve had the same experience on the other end as a teacher/leader/preacher/mentor. Students, congregants, and employees seem to only really get it when they are challenged. I know that I truly have a disciple when I hear them asking, “Explain.”  

Crowds want simple, bite-sized, easy-to-digest morsels. Disciples crave heaping plates of challenge, and demand explanations to deepen our understanding.