Friday, April 22, 2016

Reflecting at 15 Years - Live

Last week, I began a series reflecting on having been called to ministry fifteen years ago this coming summer. Two weeks from this Sunday will conclude my fifth year at my current church, and that is largely what prompted this exercise. Last week's focus was on what I have learned. This week will focus on the outgrowth of learning and our call to LIVE.

In much of the world today, the primary focus of learning is in order to do something. The internet has made it easy to watch a youtube video in order to accomplish a task rather quickly and easily (and cheaply!). However, for much of history, people have lived while they learned. What I mean is that apprenticeships have been a part of many cultures throughout history. Learning was often in the form of watching and then doing, and eventually showing others as they watched and then did themselves. While this form of learning still exists, it is not the primary way, at least not in the western world. Sitting in classrooms wondering what the purpose of learning a particular subject (e.g. Algebra) is commonplace. (For what it is worth, most everyone does use some level of Algebra daily. For instance, if you have $5 and would like coffee and donuts for breakfast, then you can by “y” number of donuts at 99 cents each, and one coffee (x) for that amount. Or  1x + 3y = $5, with taxes needing to be included and fractions/decimals being ignored. But I digress, especially because I do not like coffee and cannot eat donuts – gluten.)

While some people may choose to learn for the sake of learning, this is not the norm, especially in America. We want to learn for the sake of doing. Except in the local church. Many people each week attend church without expecting to learn, without a desire to serve, and with no remorse for either. And if something is learned, then it is often not applied. (I understand that some pastors and/or teachers do not provide appropriate application to the text, or do not give people the opportunity to serve, but that idea will be covered under Lead, in two weeks). James 1.22 says that we are to be doers of the word, not just hearers. If we hear the word and do not do it, then we are deceiving ourselves. In fact, James says this type of inaction is proof that any faith a person once had is dead (James 2.14-17).

So, learning is important, but its primary purpose is so that we might better live. It is not just what we know that counts, it is what we do with it. Of course, we are not perfect, nor will we become so in this life. But our living can set an example for others and help them to better learn how to live for others. That almost sounds like the apprentice model mentioned above. More importantly, it sounds like the discipleship model Jesus used. “Follow Me,” He said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4.17). By following Jesus, the first disciples would learn a new way to live, and could then show others as well (2 Timothy 2.2). The same is true for us today.

Over the past fifteen years, especially, I have learned a great many things. But most importantly, I have learned that what I learn I must then live. It isn't always easy, and I certainly don't always do it well, but that is part of the learning process itself.

So, as I prepare for another fifteen years of ministering in the local church, my focus will be more on teaching others to do rather than simply helping others to know. As I have the opportunity to teach at the collegiate or seminary level, I want to impart the idea to students to make their classwork meaningful beyond a grade at the end of the semester. (This is a major reason why I am so proud to be a two-time alum of, and now an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – @MBTS, which has the mantra of “For the Church.” The courses and teachings are ultimately for the benefit of the church, not just for a student to get an education.)

The reality is that most every professing Christian knows plenty about the Bible, but do not live according to what they know. I am no exception. In response to the fact that Jesus died for us, the question has been posed: “Will we live for Him.” Will I? Will you?

Imagine, for a moment, the difference we could make in the lives of others if we each of us focused on living a little bit more of what we know.

Imagine how much difference we could make in others lives if we began to live out all of what we know.

But imagine how much difference we would see in our own lives, if we heeded the call of Jesus to “Follow Me.”

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