SALT Concepts and Comments
Strategic Alliance for Leadership Training Newsletter, vol. 7 Sept. 2003
Training leaders to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
Conceptual training is based on the parable of the Sower, from which we discover four “laws”—the law of the seed, the soil, the sower and the harvest. In the August SALT Newsletter we discussed the first of the Four Conceptual Laws—the Law of the Seed. That law teaches us that we must conceptualize—organize our teaching around the seed truths that pull together and give meaning to our content, and that have the potential to germinate and produce fruit in the life of the learner.
Identifying seed truths cannot be done, of course, without referring to the other laws, for the four laws are intrinsically interrelated. This is especially true with respect to the relationship between first and second laws. The second law is called the Law of the Soil. Germination is dependent upon the interaction of the seed with the soil.
Amazingly this is the law which is probably the most often ignored by trainers. We too often become so fascinated by our teaching that those who hear sometimes merely provide an occasion for voicing our thoughts.
Truth, however, must be adapted to the learner. The Law of the Soil teaches us that we must contextualize the truth that we are seeking to implant.
The learner is the soil into which truth must penetrate. Conceptual training seeks to understand the learner’s culture – his beliefs, values and behavioral patterns – in order to identify the factors that affect his ability to assimilate truth. Understanding the soil enables the trainer to design learning experiences that allow the truth to germinate and bear fruit.
Too many teachers approach their learners as if they were a blank slate on which the teacher needs only to inscribe the information he is seeking to transplant. This is never the case. All training entails a confrontation of two distinct cultures, even when trainer and disciple have similar backgrounds. Teaching is more than transplanting information into the head of the learner—this information must have meaning, must confront the learner’s beliefs and values, and must lead to behavioral change based on conviction, not merely conformity.
Too often the teacher discovers, to his dismay, that his teaching has done little more than superimpose a layer of theoretical knowledge upon a culture that remains essentially unchanged, resulting in syncretism to one degree or another. Too often some of our finest instruction has led to what someone has described as “split-level” Christianity. The problem of syncretism is obvious in situations where the cultural differences are great; sometimes it is even more damaging when these differences are less noticeable.
How, then, can we contextualize? Essentially, by identifying with our hearers—listening to our words with their ears, feeling what they are feeling, anticipating the effect these truths will have on their lives. The Apostle Paul is our example of contextualization. With the Jews he became like a Jew; with those not having law like one of them, though he is quick to say that he is not free from God’s law. Identification with others refers to communication with them, not conformity to their culture.
Ultimately, therefore, our effectiveness in applying the Law of the Soil will be related to our sensitivity and concern for those we are training. Contextualization, however, is more than sensitivity; it is a skill to be learned. The trainer must try constantly to peer into the minds and hearts of his disciples through prayer, careful research, observation and dialogue. Here are three tips:
1) The trainer must learn ascertaining the needs of the learner, as they relate to where he is and where the trainer is seeking to take him.
2) The trainer must learn to ascertain the receptivity of the learner. He must be sensitive to the seasonal changes that God brings, often through suffering or upheavals, that heighten the learner’s receptivity to the truth. He must cultivate the soil through preparation, and water it through prayer.
3) The trainer must learn to adapt truth to the learner, discovering the bridges and barriers between him and his disciple, using language, thought patterns and examples that have meaning for the learner, appealing not only to his head, but also his heart and hands.
God’s Word is capable of transforming culture. “Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word is effective in “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Unless God’s servants have learned to contextualize, however, being “prepared in season and out of season,” correcting, rebuking and encouraging with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2), the seed might remain on the surface.
From Tom Peters, concerning his SALT training in Chad:
Early on in the Basic Training, it became evident that most daily training of children in the African context, whether it is in gardening, hunting, fishing, etc., is done through instruction, demonstration and imitation; in other words, incarnationally. Once this was realized, it made it a lot easier to apply the same principles to biblical training as well. The question was asked of the students, “So if we teach our children to garden, hunt and fish this way, why do we then try to teach spiritual things by the cognitive process instead of the incarnational/conceptual process?” Thursday, August 21, was the turning point in our understanding. Things really started to flow for all of us in understanding the basis for incarnational/conceptual teaching. I praise the Lord for answered prayer for that day in helping us to see how everyday life and Biblical teaching can complement each other and help us to learn more about God’s Word and how to apply it to our lives.
From Bernard of Clairvaux (1070-1153) on cognitive learning:
There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge. That is curiosity.
There are those who seek knowledge to be known of others. That is vanity.
There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve. That is love.
SALT Newsletter invites your comments.
The SALT alliance is not limited to those serving with Grace Brethren International Missions. It includes all who: 1) embrace the same values (training for obedience and not merely knowledge; equipping and not merely instructing; implanting truth and not merely transplanting content); 2) are intentionally infusing the four laws of conceptual learning into their leadership training; and 3) who are committed to ministering to other trainers by sharing their experiences through the SALT Newsletter.
Please send us the names of any friends who would be interested in receiving the SALT Newsletter. Past Newsletters will be sent on request.
We are in the process of scheduling SALT Workshops (half-day seminars to introduce the conceptual training philosophy), with follow-up encounters with those actively involved in training trainers. Let us know if you are interested in a SALT Workshop in your locality.
Address communications to Tom Julien: email@example.com.
September 17, 2003
Summer 2005 Inside Out or Outside In
Spring 2005 Creating a Leadership Development Culture
Winter 2005 Leadership Training Clinic
Autumn 2004 Church Based Leadership Training
Spring 2004 Making Truth Personal
Jan- Mar 2004 Holistic Training
Nov-Dec 2003 4th Law-Law of the Harvest
Oct 2003 3rd Law-Law of the Sower
Sept 2003 2nd Law-Law of the Soil
Aug 2003 1st Law-Law of the Seed
July 2003 Teaching or Training
June 2003 Converting Content to Concepts
April 2003 Concept: Implanting vs. Transplanting
March 2003 Training Leaders to Teach Others
January 2003 What is SALT?