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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Principle vs Specifics

Well, I have a ton to write about and I have really not had the time to be here as much as I would have liked...I am trying to get my MySpace page going.  It is an amazingly inefficient format.  But, I will make due.  So I had a question roaming the dark depths of my mind this week pertaining to the subject matter that I talk about to my Youth Group and our Young Adult Discussion Group.  I have to this point, tried to focus on principles of Christian living.  Not just that but Christianity itself.  I felt that if the students could grasp a Biblical principle, then as the need arises, they could apply it to their situation.  Yet, I hear things that direct me to speak to more specific issues like drugs, or profanity and other such symptoms of a sinful heart.  I just struggle with the benefit of such discussions to the group as a whole.  What does everyone think about whether to focus on principles or get more specific?   Several of you are pastors so it would be awesome to find out what you do and what you think are the benefits of each.  Thanks for reading and especially for commenting. I would encourage all who come here to make a comment, for surely you have an opinion or insight.  Thanks! Nyk

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Jeff said...

You should stick to principals in a group setting. Mostly because the Bible doesn't deal with every issue, and you may need the freedom to respond differently to individuals in private. The situations and reasons for an action maybe important. Say like healing on the sabbath. Or maybe you address drinking directly as a sin, and someone goes with a friend to church. That church uses wine during communion. Now you are screwed. You either do a bunch of false sounding back pedaling, or you affirm everyone that took communion is a sinner. If you by pass the question with something like the Bible says drunkenness is a sin, and everything is permissable but don't let anything master you. Then you are left with the freedom to deal with people on an individual basis.

JP Vilaire said...

Personally, I find that there must be somewhat of a balance in teaching and preaching principles vs. practical application of those principles. Most of the time (at least in recent months) I have felt led to treat my biblical texts from the perspective of the general principles taught. For example last week we talked about the need to develop a hunger and thirst for God through fasting and prayer. But I focused on the principle of developing a hunger and thirst rather than outline a prayer style or format or give suggestions for developing and maintaining a regular quiet/devotional time.

But then on the other hand, I will often go through and preach more topically on different portions of the covenant of Christian conduct. For example, our covenant discusses avoiding particular forms of dance. Most individuals cynical about the Covenant will say, "of course our Manual says we don't dance" but that is not the case. In discussing why some forms of dance can be very beautiful and appropriate you point out that there are others that objectify and demean the participants.

What I am saying that, in discussing the particular application, "don't simulate sex on dance floors", we teach a principle, "our brothers and sisters should be treated with dignity and respect" or "our witness must be considered even in social situations".

Any time you deal with a practical/concrete application of principles I think you should provide a succinct statement of the principle and continually restate it throughout your discussion.

well, those are some ideas regarding my approach. For what its worth:)

Nicholas said...

Thank you for the ideas! I like how to use a specific as an example of the principle. Do you think that teens can then apply that to other areas or do they just get stuck on that one issue?
This retreat we spent some time talking about sexualy purity and in the girl's small group we were talking about what their responsibility is towards guys in helping the guys keep a pure mind. That was the principle. I gave a couple of one statement examples but the example that I talked about for a minute or so was how girls hug guys. And how to the girls, often it is nothing more than a hug. But how to a guy, because of "budding" anatomy that guys are not used to, something that simple could begin a thought process in a guy's mind that is not pure. I can't go into all the details that we discussed but for the next several days all the girls could talk about was how they couldn't ever hug any of their friends again. And that wasn't at all what I said and they didn't seem to apply the principle to all the other areas of their lives. (well, they may have but that isn't what they were talking about). Yet, if I had only given the principle would have they come up with anything to apply it to? Dress, language, touch, jokes, etc.
Maybe adults are different but I suspect not that much.

Thanks for the comments, they are very helpful.

JP Vilaire said...

Man, I feel your pain! I really do, I find it really hard to discuss things with teens and I hold those who are gifted in this area with awe! Sexual purity along with trying to explain how guys are wired so differently than girls is really tough. And your right, even adults have a hard time grasping the difference. The book, Every Man's Battle has a section at the end of each chapter for the response to the issues from wives and girlfriends. They usually respond in astonishment that guys can be so preoccuppied or that guys have this chemical 'domino' effect going with a trigger such as a hug or kiss on the cheek or even seeing a girl in tight clothes.

Probably the best discussion/ sermon I ever heard was on a video years ago. I don't remember who did it, but a guy had a bunch of empty chairs on the platform. And he went along and said who was sitting in those chairs. He started with the first one saying, "you are sitting in this chair five years from now. What will you tell yourself as you look back on your date last night. Will you feel proud of how you behaved?", then he went to the next chair, "your future spouse is in this chair. They want to know if you kept yourself pure for them." and the next chair, "this is where the spouse of your girlfriend or boyfriend is sitting. And they are saying 'please treat my future spouse with honor, please do not steal what belongs to me'".

Of course the principle is that what you do or how you treat a member of the opposite sex has an impact and is of concern to a large number of people.

I suppose that teens would relate to some concrete example set in a story form or narrative form. I like to tell stories during my sermons sometimes turning the majority of a sermon into a narrative/story. I notice that, when I am telling the story, the teens are listening intently. As soon as I hit the text or get to more expository material, I lose them.

I would say that your best bet is to try to connect with them through some sort of story. Let them discover the principle and application via putting themselves in another's shoes.

In our media saturated culture treating someone with honor based on thier gender or what that honor means to another person seems ridiculous. But perhaps with the right story, they may get the point. I really don't know if they get the point any better...teens are really hard to read! But I know they listen to me much better when I am telling a story. I am a lover of folk tales, European stories of valour and honor, Hans Christian Anderson and stuff like that. Whether it be senior citizens or children and all ages in between, if you can get the biblical principle hooked into a good story line, they will at least listen.

Hope it helps...

Nicholas said...

Thanks again for everyone's input on this. I can see that talking aobut specifics is better done one on one or in small groups settings. While touching on principles is a better route for the larger group. Thanks for the comments about using stories. I am trying to do that more and more although I am not a very good story teller. If you see things working at your own ministries and want to continue to share successes or failures, please keep commenting here. I am sure many will keep checking back for more insight into this topic. Thanks again!!! and thanks for your prayers. I am still working through things but the suffocating anxiety has lifted and, wow, the insights all of you gave really allowed God to work! Thank you!



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