Sunday, October 14, 2007

Belong, Believe, Behave

Travelling over to Budapest last week I was reading Alan Roxburgh's 'The Missional Leader' - not a great book to be honest but it did prod me towards the following little rev... For years now I've heard people talk about 'Belong, Believe, Behave' as a summary of the process of becoming a Christian. I first recall Mike Pilavachi using it about 10 years ago. He spelt out the way that most churches insist that young people are required to first behave, then believe at which point they might be allowed to belong. Along with many in youth ministry my work has involved trying to reverse that process, with the least important bit being the behaving - after all, "teenagers eh!". How crazy then that I'm only now coming to see that this isn't a process at all. These are 3 incredibly important factors in anyone's Christian life, whether just starting out or approaching the finishing line. We all need to be part of a community of faith (belonging), we all need to be animated by personal faith (belief), and we all need to act in accordance with our faith (behaviour). How could I have overlooked the behavioural dimension of faith for so long? After all, 'Faith without deeds is dead.' Let's never confuse authentic Christian behaviour with how we act in Sunday worship; how we behave in that context ought to pale into insignificance when compared against the witness of our daily lives.

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1 comment:

mj82 said...

Matt,

I can see where you are coming from in this blog. Behaviour is for sure as important as belief. And moreover from a missional point of view I can see that this sort of procedural thinking can obscure the end - almost like missing the forest for the trees. However I think the belief / behaviour relationship has a more complex intertwining than it is given credit for.

In the immediate two views on this relationship spring to mind. Firstly from a psychological point of view and secondly from a philosophical point of view.

Psycahologically there is a great deal of research that goes into beliefs and behaviours. It is a modern marketing minefield to try and work out what beliefs lead people to behaviour. There are many simple and complex models designed to show the stages of behaviour however on a more pragmatic approach there are two opposing viewpoints. One states that we act in such a way because we believe with the opposing camp saying that if we act in such a way we will become / believe. CS Lewis is a porponent of the latter view recognising that if we love someone who is difficult to love over time they become more loveable. However this would tend to go against most people's rationale that it is the feeling that leads to action. This is important as which ever way you decide is right they are both procedural therefore indicating, at least in the initial stages of behaviour, belief and behaviour may function more as a process than simeltaneously. On top of this the question has to be asked whether a belief at all can influence your actions. At one time I thought not...I believe in fairtrade for example but that didn't necessarily lead me to buying Faritrade. However I also think that a well developed and internalised belief will affect our actions over time.

This leads me into the second point. From a philosophical point of view there has always been a lot of material on belief and action. One of the main streams of thought proposes that a belief alone is not enough to lead to an action and that some sort of motivation is needed to result in the action. I think in some cases this is a valid point. Just believing something does not necessarily cause an action. There may need to be an internediate stage or thought in order to bring about a corresponding action. There is a lot that could be said here that may in a missional enviroment be interesting to look into. However in the limited context here it is suffice to bring the issue into the forum.

So what does this mean for Belong, Believe, Behave. Well initially my thought is that it is a model of simplicity that in reality may not reflect the true complexity hence why you feel a sense of unease about it. From experience in my own life however I can see that over time and through the work of the Holy Spirit both my beliefs and my behaviours have changed. Is this because of a sense of belonging? I'm not sure but then is allowing people to belong and accepting them not an outworking of Christian behaviour?

All in all I am not sure where any of this leads to or fits in but I think it highlights that if Christians insist on using models and philosophies then they better be ready to face criticisms over them. At the end of the day what has transformed my beliefs and behaviours more than ideas are people themselves, their influence and their love.