by: Rev. Alex Molozaiy, Pastor
At the March council meeting it was decided (after a somewhat extended period of discernment) that we should make becoming a ‘Learning Community’ our congregational focus for 2018. So what does that mean? The description envisioned when we initially conceived our key result areas was “to cultivate lifelong teaching and learning opportunities for everyone wherever they are on their faith journey and to assist in discovering and using gifts, both as individuals and in community.” My shortened, elevator-pitch version would be: expecting all Christians to grow ‘in their love and understanding of the Lord’ (as we promise to do in our church covenant), and helping to discover ways in which we can facilitate that growth as a community.
The fact is that many (if not most) church members have at best an 8th Grade theological education. Why? Because so few of them continued any meaningful study beyond Confirmation classes. If this hits a little- too-close-to-home for you, let me reassure you that it’s not all your fault. Most churches didn’t provide much in the way of relevant and engaging programs for Growth and Christian Education beyond Sunday School for kids and Confirmation. You were expected to serve on a board or committee, perhaps even attend worship regularly, but most mainline churches like ours probably didn’t expect you to actively keep wrestling with the hard questions of faith or even learn more about the Bible as a witness to God. We all just presumed that laypeople would pick up what they needed to know about God or how to better follow Jesus in worship on Sundays and how to run the Christmas Bazaar by serving on a board. For the most part it wasn’t very important how all of those were related to each other.
We live in a different world now. With the rapid pace of change, we can’t rely as heavily on our traditions to create meaning for us; we need a broader conceptual education so we can wrestle with the relentless questions of tomorrow. Not just that, but consider that many people who are intrigued by Jesus and are seeking meaning in a community of believers have never set foot in a church before, much less completed a program of Confirmation. In other words, we need to have a better understanding of what lies at the core of our beliefs and continue to wrestle with the questions so that we can better discern what’s ‘baby’ and what’s ‘bathwater’ when change inevitably comes our way. We need to be lifelong disciples of Jesus, even as we are sent out to act as apostles in mission. Like housework, we’re never ‘done.’
I’m a little sorry for using that housework metaphor, because it makes becoming a Learning Community sound like drudgery. The good news is, it’s absolutely not! While it is work, engaging in this work has rewards. First and foremost, it will bring you closer to God, which we know brings a peace that passes all understanding. Second, we have the joy of new discovery as we find a better grip on the questions that really matter to us, resulting in greater meaning in most aspects of our lives. Finally, by committing to growth we can leave the Church of Jesus stronger than it was when we found it (or it found us). Those who are drawn to it will find the new life they’ve been looking for, a place where they too can grow and ask questions, and a place where they can see the living Christ at work in the world. This world doesn’t necessarily need more Christians, but better Christians, so let’s get growing!