Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Teaching Outline, Part 2

Yesterday I took a bit of a look at that paragraph in The Advent of Divine Justice that goes from page 42 - 44. Within that paragraph, I found 14 steps that the Guardian indicates for us to use when making a teaching plan that goes from resolving to arise and serve, to helping another individual make that same committment.

Those steps, in case anyone forgot (or actually to make it easier for me to keep track of where I am), are:
  1. Resolve to arise and teach
  2. Consider every avenue of approach
  3. Survey possibilities in own life
  4. Proced intelligently and systematically
  5. Devise methods to open ways to more contacts
  6. Bear in mind dignity, etc...
  7. Consider degree of hearer's receptivity
  8. Remember example of 'Abdu'l-Baha
  9. Refrain, at beginning, from insisting on laws that may be too much
  10. Try to nurse the person into full maturity
  11. Help him declare
  12. Introduce him to body of fellow-believers
  13. Enable them to contribute their share to the growth of the Faith
  14. Do not be content until individual arises independently
Yesterday we looked at the first 6 steps, which I believe are about personal preparation. Today I want to look at the other 8 steps.

Now that we have refined our methods of meeting people, and are meeting a number of folks with interests that are similar to ours (in other words, we have something in common), we turn our attention to the individual in question.

Now this is a point of particular interest to me, as I often see myself going into a teaching scenario with my own not-so-hidden agenda. I will, for example, decide that I want to begin a study circle and will, therfore, invite everybody, and their dog, to join, regardless of their interest ("Oh, you really want to say lots of prayers? Well, come join my Book 1"). Or I may decide to host a fireside one evening on some abstract theoretical theological topic ("What did you say? You want to be of service to humanity? Well come and hear a lengthy talk on some subject you have no interest in."). Or someone may express an interest in hearing a little bit more about the Baha'i Faith, and I may begin a long discourse on the Conference of Badasht, when what they are really interested in hearing about is our views of science, or maybe they were just being courteous.

No. The first thing I really need to learn to do is to get to know the person. And this doesn't take long, not like years or anything. In fact, quite often when I'm talking with someone new, it only takes a few minutes of listening to them before they tell me what it is they are interested in hearing. By engaging them in a conversation, as opposed to making them endure a monologue, you can really guage their capacity. This may take some practice, but after talking with a few people, and reflecting afterwards upon the conversation, you will see what I mean. Not everyone is interested in hearing about the Faith, and many who are interested are not ready to be challenged by the mighty claim that Baha'u'llah makes. This is what is meant by an indirect approach, but more on that in another article. Throughout all of this, of course, we are showering them with love.

This, to me, takes care of steps 7 and 8. Oh, not that we've perfected them or anything, but just that we can keep them in mind and try to use this information when teaching.

And now they have declared. They are identifying themselves "with the Cause embodying such teachings". (I bet you were wondering when I was going to copy some of that text. I figured I had copied the whole piece yesterday and didn't need to repeat it again here.)

But this is not all there is to do. It may help, at this point, to think of their faith as a tree. Once they have declared, our job is not yet over, for their tree of faith still needs to be nurtured into full maturity. And one of the fruits of that tree is the laws. Of course, if the tree is young, then it may break under the weight of such laws as are too great a burden. I have seen many friends who have left the Faith because others tried to impose the laws upon them. On the other hand, I have seen other friends who were nurtured in maturity by wise and loving Assemblies who refrained from doing this. In one case, a friend had just bought a house with her boyfriend and they were living together. The Assembly wisely understood that she would withdraw if she was asked to move out. Instead they nurtured her and helped her move into obedience with the law over time. They did not let the law slide, but they let her know that she could grow into obedience.

This, to me, is the height of wisdom.

At this point, when they have matured beyond the breaking point at these silly tests that we impose upon each other, then we are to introduce them "to the body of his fellow-believers". I find it interesting that we do not do this earlier.

Oh, and it is not that we don't introduce them to other Baha'is. It doesn't say that. We introduce them wisely to many Baha'is, but they are not yet their "fellow-believers". It is now, though, that we introduce them to the full body of the Baha'i community, through Feasts and Reflection Meetings and other events and activities that make up that body. It is here that they continue, for they have already begun, in their service to the Cause and to humanity.

Through this, they will come to take a greater ownership of the Faith they have espoused and will, in time, become amongst its ardent supporters.

Yeah. I just love this paragraph.


  1. A few decades ago, a friend (Hi Tony) pointed out how late in the process "Introduce him to body of fellow-believers" is. It's good advice.

  2. What we are learning is that relationship-building is the heart of community-building. Listening, meeting the needs of the seeker, having something in common (like-minded groups, organizations), showering with love.... Enjoyed reading this. Very timely.