The importance of frustration

Doug Pagitt
“Educational theory tells us people really only learn out of frustration- the frustration that they don’t know but need to, the frustration that life isn’t working but there could be a better way. Frustration is not a bad thing- it’s a necessary thing.”
– Doug Pagitt

In case you hadn’t grasped the connection yet, the picture above is of Pagitt himself. I’ve been reading Preaching Re-Imagined, a great great book that’s scratching me where I itch right now. Introduction aside, my girlfriend Bethany and I have talked about Pagitt’s subject often recently (really over the course of our entire friendship that moved into a dating relationship); reality is often frustrating! And we often interpret that frustration as a negative thing. But what if that frustration is neither positive nor negative, but instead teaches us that reality is mysterious and complex, and so we can’t nail it down right away? So we wrestle with ideas and people and remain committed to growth and find that somehow, in the midst of the frustration, some degree of clarity arises that wouldn’tve if we hadn’t let the frustration motivate us.

Some issues that were before complex will become clear, some issues that we assumed were clear before will become complex, and some of reality remains downright mysterious. I like that. I like that that reality demands I be in relationship with others. I love that Bethany and I have the kind of relationship to be able to wrestle with these things and trust one another along the way. I hope to continue to grow in my relationships with others to have that same kind of mutuality, trust, and room to wrestle, vent, and grow. A good goal, I think.

This relates deeply to relationships and the pursuit of truth as the church, as well, I think. Pagitt calls the vast majority of preaching as “speaching” today; meaning that it often is conceived of as an individual act of a certain length of time that is a product of a certain individual study segmented apart from others that is delivered in a monological way. And, because the sermon is a monologue, one must attempt as much as possible to style a message that will be relevant to the largest segment of persons listening (which often renders a message powerless, or much less powerful). This style of “speaching” developed largely in the Reformation as the sermon became more central in the time of worship…and it says “church” to many people today. You haven’t “done church” till you’ve been preached to.

He suggests instead a sort of progressive dialogue, where the pastor serves less of a monological, spoon-feeding role, and instead functions more as an empowerer, a facilitator of sorts. In this model, even though the pastor still remains the main voice (because he or she has been called into that role by the congregation), the community is empowered to travel together and seek the will of God in a more communal manner. It is the movement from dependence to more equal relationship.

This shift, Pagitt suggests, will travel deeper than the “speaching” model in a real, relational way by uncovering responses of various participants to the Word and to the pastor’s message (both frustrated and agreeing responses). It is this structure that enables the community to dig deeper and hash out deeper relationship together in the pursuit of truth. And is this not more healthy? Does this require deeper community? Clearly.

Then why is “speaching” considered the most effective way to walk through the Word today?

And what do you think about frustration? negative? positive? both? why?

Comment (1)

  1. Doug Pagitt

    May you be ever “frustrated”. ;0)

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