Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Drink Your Milk!

I recently read the following statement on a church website:

“At Galilean church no one ever graduates from Sunday School.”

Really? No one?

I mean, can you imagine using that same line of thinking with the public school system?

“At __________ School no one ever graduates.

WHAT? Break out the pitchforks and torches! Can you imagine such a thing? There would be an uproar like you wouldn’t believe! Not only would parents be enraged, but I have to think kids would be less than “enthused” about attending such a fine institution.

With that, I would love to ask Galilean Church this question: If no one has graduated. Who is teaching your Sunday school classes?

You see, there’s one big difference between a student and a graduate. Students are still under the “tutelage” of a teacher. Graduates move on to become the teacher. They no longer need the classroom.

So, if no one ever graduates, who teaches?

Yes, I can hear it now, “Ken, we are all lifelong learners. No one has arrived.” Yeah, I know all that, but if I’m sitting in some class burning time listening to someone “teach”, I’d like to think they are qualified and actually know what they’re talking about. Not only that, but I’d also like to think that at some point I could complete my own “learning” and…move on.

If no one gets to graduate, what’s the point? How does anyone else ever become a teacher?

Well the truth is, despite the claims of our friends at Galilean Church, today’s modern “churches” do indeed have “graduates”. Although, one might need to question their…qualifications.

So who exactly could be considered a “graduate” at “church”? Sunday school teachers? Deacons? Elders? Surely the pastor guy is a graduate! If these folks do indeed represent the “graduates”, how did they achieve such a grand thing? What rite of passage did they complete to arrive at such an esteemed position?
Well, I’ve been out of the establishment for a while, but if my memory serves me right I think it goes as follows:

To graduate to the position of pastor, many prepare by attending some type of Bible College (you know, like it talks about in the bible…?). But, the real qualification for pastor “graduation” is….getting hired!

Yep, if you really want to graduate to the position of pastor dude, all you really need is to be hired by some “church” that thinks you have what it takes. You know, like you have a decent resume, you preach a good sermon, you seem godly by the way you talk, that kind of stuff. At that point, you’re a pastor! See, wasn’t graduation easy!

By the way, many say they were “called”. Newsflash: We all are called.

When it comes to elders or deacons, in most cases meeting the requirements for graduation is generally just a matter of getting appointed or being voted on. So, if you are liked, well respected, or in some instances just have lots of money, you too can graduate to the position of elder, or deacon. Rarely will job description be based on the bible, but rather on your church’s bylaws or covenant. The good news is that after you gain “graduate power” you can work to have it changed if you don’t particularly like it.

Now the requirements for graduation to the position of Sunday school teacher are quite varied. In some “churches” it may involve a vote, being appointed, or just a matter of volunteering (those are the real saints…no sarcasm at all!). Yet overwhelmingly, it has been my joyous experience to observe these folks being “guilted” through the graduation line! That means that most likely one of the above mentioned graduates will come to some poor victim…I mean valued member and badger them to the point that they finally cave and agree to “graduate”. Persuasive arguments such as “You’d be perfect”, or “We really need you”, or my favorite “God wants to use you” can change a student to a full-fledged graduate in no time!

Yes, God's path to graduation looks far different than our own.

Still within the "church", that only accounts for a very small percentage of the congregation at a “church”. What about the rest of the folks? Well here’s the good news, most of you will never graduate!

Yes, apparently our dear Galilean Church from above had it at least partially right after all. No, everyone else is expected to “listen” and glean from the more qualified folks that have actually “graduated”. The good news is some people might possibly get to graduate at some point, but that will be for your fellow students and of course the graduates to decide.

So, you just get comfy on that pew or chair, because you’re probably going to be there for a while!

Now, I know I’m being a major smart butt, BUT in a lot of ways you know that what I’ve written about this whole silly process is basically true. The real problem with this political mess is this: It’s not in the bible, nor does it remotely represent God’s heart for His kids.

What does the bible say? I’m glad you asked!

Hebrews puts it this way. “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

Nowhere in the bible does God convey that He expects ANY of His kids to sit on a pew for 60 years or more getting spoon fed baby food. What He does challenge us to do is grow up and “move on”!

Along that same line, Paul states in the following passages God’s desire for us to become mature (that means graduate):

Ephesians 4:13
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:15
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Colossians 1:28
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

There is a season in every believer’s life that milk is necessary, but at some point we all need to push away the bottle, grab a fork and knife, and dig in to the solid stuff! God wants each one of His kids to “become mature” in the faith and eventually “graduate”. Again, that does not mean we ever stop learning, but surely we would all agree that at some point those who have been “discipled” must become the disciple makers. Otherwise, it would seem the charge of our Lord to “make disciples of all nations” was given to us in vain!

With that, I’ll end on this (If you are a “churchy” person you probably won’t like this part).

The truth is many of our “graduate” leaders do not really expect or want you to graduate. Why? Because if you did, they’d be out of a job. I know that sounds tough, but it’s true. Most of the people who give me heck about the things I write are “clergy”. Why? Well, I’d say it is likely because I threaten their security with such talk. The danger is a few of you might listen and who knows what that could lead to!

I KNOW this kind of talk will offend many “graduates”, but if you’ll really get honest with yourself, you know it’s true. As a “graduate”, I loved being looked at as “the guy”. It was a real “pride stroker” having others rely on me. It gives you a wonderful sense of self importance. The problem is if everyone’s “relying” on us, when do they ever learn to rely on Jesus? I’m not saying that most of our leaders don’t love or care for the people, but at the end of the day “most” enjoy being “the graduate” and having others see them as such.

Still others worry that such talk might empower rebellion and upset the “God ordained” hierarchy and chain of authority that exists within our churches. If people started growing up in the faith, what would our “churches” begin to look like? Before long, people might actually begin taking responsibility for their own relationship with Christ. Wouldn’t everything change?

Yes, hopefully everything would indeed change and my guess is we’d probably look quite different than we do now. Who knows, we might even start looking like...

The church


Quilty Lady (Anna) said...

Well I have to say I do consider everyone a learner and actually no I don't think of anyone as a graduate. However there are different levels of learning. Yes, we start out on the milk. I believe part of the problem comes as we get ready to move from the milk to the meat. It becomes more difficult to find a place to get the meat, or find someone who can teach you and help you in your growth. As a joiner we are typically in a setting that we hope is adding new people and these new people will need to start out on the milk, therefore there has to be teaching for them but in a typical setting this means those who are ready to move on to the meat are still listening to the same level of teaching they received while they needed the milk. This causes stagnation, inattention and as most school teachers would attest, time to get into trouble. We must learn how to go about finding ways to deepen our learning and thereby continue to grow. This is not easy as there are no clear cut pathways to point people in the right direction and in addition to that the learning can come from so many different sources how do we know which path to take? Herein is one of the challenges to "preacher dudes" to continue to feed those who are ready for meat while still feeding those who can only tolerate the milk.

For the Christian searching for deeper understanding it is difficult to know which way to turn. It goes without saying the Bible is the first source, prayer and supplication to His will, whatever that may be and the challange of knowing is this really His will or is this just something that I want to do at this time.

In addition, if you have been "guilted" into a teaching position, that can be a huge positive in your Christian life if you begin doing more studying in order to be able to teach.

Yes dear, you are indeed being something of a smart butt, but the problem to me is you haven't given people who are searching a pathway in which to turn. These things can be so hard that sometimes it is easier to live in our comfortable rut than try to climb out. Of course it would be easier if we never got in the rut in the first place, but life goes on.

Remember as we go through the tedium of life, that we can learn something new from everyone. Maybe that something new is in the form of a negative that I never want to be like that or perhaps it is in the positive and I want to work to have more of that attitude, but there is always something to be learned from people and from nature.

Enjoy the beauty of God. Grow in grace. Continue to be a student no matter how long you have been in school. No matter how much you learn, there is always something you don't know.

Kenja said...

Again, graduation has nothing to do with “arriving”. It simply means we do not need to be "under" someone's teaching to move on with God. He has given us His Hoy Spirit to "bring us into all truth". I realize I am only looking at a small portion of a much bigger landscape, but that was my intention. This blog wasn't meant to be an all-inclusive deal.

Also, I wanted to point out that most of the time, the folks we look to "feed" us are no more qualified than the one looking back at you in the mirror. The only one we need and can trust to feed us that which is good is Jesus. Everyone else is simply sharing their limited opinions.

A mature Christian does not need a guru of any type. We don’t need another sermon. We can all learn from each other, but I couldn’t care less about hearing another “thus saith the Lord” sermon. We can share and grow together, but the whole idea of an exalted spiritual CEO is bull. We can go to Jesus ourselves.

We never stop learning, but let our learning come directly from the Holy One and the community of faith as brothers and sisters in Christ.