What does it mean to follow Christ in our era? That is the central question for Christians in any era but it is particularly challenging today. Some suggest that our postmodern and post-Christendom context is creating a level of disruption in the church not seen since the Reformation. I think that is likely true. So how do we follow Christ today?
A new curriculum called ReFrame attempts a response. It is “A powerful 10-week film-based exploration of what it means to follow Christ in the modern era,” produced by Regent College (Vancouver, British Columbia) in cooperation with The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture. It is truly exceptional series.
The curriculum features ten videos, each about thrity-nine minutes long. The first episode speaks to the increasing complexity and fragmentation of modern life. Our tendency is either to assimilate with our cultural context or to withdraw. We do not have a clear vision of how God might be at work in our midst. We do not know how to follow. The series uses the Emmaus Road story as a metaphor for being unable to see Christ among us until our vision is “reframed.” The second episode delves a little deeper in the specific challenges we face.
Beginning in the third episode, the series takes a narrative approach, moving from creation and fall, to Israel, to Jesus the King, to new creation, to the Church and the Spirit, and so on, helping us see how our daily work and life is connected with God’s “story” at work in the world. The series concludes with guidance on how we might more authentically be disciples in light of our context and in light of God’s unfolding narrative.
The format of each episode is built around the TED Talk concept. Half of the video is a speaker making an engaging presentation. There is a setup segment at the beginning and a wrap-up segment at the end. Interspersed throughout the video is commentary and testimony given by biblical scholars and theologians, as well as vignettes by people from business, law, education, and science. People like Scot McKnight, Andy Crouch, Amy Sherman, and Eugene Peterson, are among several of the contributors. Each episode is very well produced, moving along at an engaging pace.
I cannot emphasize enough how refreshing this curriculum is. I have been serving in various leadership capacities within the Presbyterian Church, USA, and in a variety of faith-based entities most of my adult life. At some point in the late 1990s, I discerned that many Christians have a difficult time seeing how their discipleship connects with daily life in truly meaningful ways. Church has become ancillary to “real life.” The church is the place to receive therapeutic care, to get moral instruction for children, or to join programs that offer opportunities for charity and pursuit of justice outside of real life. The church is not a place where we are formed for mission at the workplace and in the mundane affairs of the world. It is my conviction that renewal in the church will begin only when God’s mission and the whole of life is reintegrated.
Key to reintegration is reframing, yet I find precious few people in ecclesiastical structures and academic institutions who see the urgency and centrality of this need. When attempts are made, they usually proceed from a purely theological bent, without dialog with other disciplines like sociology, economics, science, education, and business. They lack a winsome authenticity. ReFrame is a refreshing exception.
ReFrame acknowledges its Evangelical milieu but I am convinced the curriculum would be well received across a wide range of denominational and theological communities. I am working out the details of doing multiple small groups with the series at Pine Ridge Presbyterian, starting at Lent. The idea is to buy a digital license and “flip the classroom.” Participants will watch each episode online at a password protected site and then meet weekly to discuss and apply what was learned. The curriculum is a turnkey product complete with guides and promotional materials.
I have been following Regent College for at least fifteen years and continue to be impressed with their innovation and quality services. I know of few other institutions like Regent. The College offers classes and degrees that focus on the reintegration of life and I am sure one purpose of the curriculum is to raise the profile of the academic and practical resources they provide. More power to them! I hope they are so successful that seminaries around the country will feel compelled to follow their lead. Maybe even the Presbyterians one day. ;-)
You definitely need to check out ReFrame. If you go to their site, you will find a two-minute promotional video. Episodes 1 and 5 are available for free so you can get a flavor of the experience. Thanks to the ReFrame folks for an exceptional product. I cannot wait to put it to use.