Memories, the Science of Commitment, and Rebalancing Teaching vs Worship

This post is one in a collection of continuing posts about Brain Research, Memory Formation, and what teachers and pastors need to know about both.
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The latest brain and memory research continues to underscore the importance of Sunday School and Bible Study.
In the April 2011 issue of Discover magazine, brain researcher Carl Zimmer describes scientific research demonstrating the LINK between our MEMORIES,  and our ability to make decisions and plan for  the future.  For example, if you are planning a camping trip, your brain automatically accesses your memories of previous camping trips. Indeed, we cannot think of the future without thinking of the past. The scientists call this “episodic memory”, –the past informing the present and future.  More about this in a moment.
The brain sifts through its memories when it is doing the work of “foresight” and making decisions. And we can only speculate how one can make decisions worthy of scripture in the absence of “Biblical Memories”.  It’s why we “teach the story” …to put God’s story into memory so that it can inform our lives. Our job as parents, educators and pastors is to MAKE SURE that database includes a biblically informed set of memories and faith experiences.
And yet, these days many churches seem to be backing away from their teaching ministries,
…and that sounds like church-suicide to me.
But it’s more than just “loading up memory”…
Research has confirmed that a SENSE OF COMMITMENT to the subject is not only nice, it greatly increases memory creation and recall.  In one study mentioned in Zimmer’s article, researchers found that people who studied and planned an actual event had better recall of the content surrounding that event than those who merely talked about the event. COMMITMENT matters to the brain.
This is the science behind “Talk the talk -and- walk the walk.”
Caring and doing creates stronger content in our memories, and as we’ve just learned, it is MEMORIES that inform our decision making and foresight.

Adding God’s Memory to our Episodic Memory

The ability to remember HOW to do things based on past experience is called “Episodic Memory.”  It’s a distinct type of memory we have and begins to develop around age 4.  How we live our lives and solve problems and plan ahead is worked out in the brain by including past memories.

When we believe, we begin the process of incorporating God’s story into our own, and letting Godly memories inform our decisions.  It’s as simple as that. Paul said it this way in Philippians 2:5:  “Have the same mind as Christ Jesus….”

Pastors Have Become Priests

Somewhere along the line for pastors, WORSHIP eclipsed the teaching of God’s Word. I know pastors who rarely teach outside of the pulpit. They are more comfortable in a black robe or hospital room than in a classroom.

Yet one only has to look at the ministry of Jesus to see God’s thoughts on that subject. Jesus spent MOST of his ministry TEACHING, not leading worship, or going to worship. Indeed, Jesus was often referred to as “Rabboni” –“teacher.”

Would that more pastors would  imitate Jesus –and devote as much time to helping believers incorporate God’s Word into their memories as Jesus did.  Yet pastors and parishoners have become “WORSHIP” focused for a lot of reasons too numerous to mention here.  One wonders, however, how our worthy our Worship could truly be, if more people owned God’s story in their hearts and memories.

Food for foresight!

<>< Neil

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Final comment for now:
Our software helps RECITE the Bible’s story in an exciting format.
And learning with software enhances memory formation because:
a) Their memories associate the content with a positive experience, which improves its chance of recall.
b) The content is presented through a variety of learning senses, increasing its chances of “sticking” in the various ways the brain stores and recalls.
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