Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may honor Your name. - Psalm 86:11
When did your education come to an end? High school? College? On the job training? When did you stop learning? This can be very difficult to answer as our world is always changing and we’re always learning new things. Formal, institutional instruction may end with a degree, but that doesn’t mean the learning has stopped. I consider it a wasted day if I haven’t picked up at least one piece of information I didn’t know before. Granted, some may say that I’m a walking compendium of useless information (like how many stomachs a sheep has and the names of all 4 of them), but our learning is never supposed to come to an end.
The last couple of weeks we looked at the upcoming school year and colleges reopening in the midst of Covid-19. Last week we looked at how our preschool provides more than just a basic education to the children and families we serve. Today I’d like to explore why we still need to keep learning even as adults. We see the need for this in the worldly realm as more than 1/3 of students in colleges and universities now (especially online) are adults in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s training for a new career. No longer do we go to school for x years, get a job in ___ field, and then stay with that employer throughout our lives. It is now expected that a member of generation z (the one that comes after the Millennials) will change careers at least 4 times throughout life. This isn’t just changing jobs or companies, this is changing one’s career field; like going from an accountant to a mechanical engineer. Each of these vocations requires a certain skill set and training to be proficient.
But what about faith learning. Certainly we learned all we need to know in Sunday School and Confirmation class. As can be seen from Redeemer and other Sunday schools, less than 1/10th of the children “on the books” are partaking of Christian education weekly. Pew Research Co. has that number down to 1 out of 20 children overall. It doesn’t get much better when they hit their teens and it’s time for Confirmation - 75% of children baptized never confirm their baptism. And this carries through to adulthood. Only about 1 in 10 Christians worshiping on a Sunday morning will attend a Bible class sometime during that week. So it should come as no surprise that those who claim to be Christians really don’t know much about what the Bible says about the faith they hold. This is also why those being trained in preaching (homiletics) are being taught to make their sermons “didactic” or “teachable”. It’s the only time 90% of the people will receive any Bible instruction.
Yet this is the polar opposite of what we find in both the Old and New testaments. Moses commanded God’s people to “talk about these things when….” (Dt. 6) and saw all of life as an opportunity to learn more about God and His workings in our lives. Jesus called His followers “disciples”, which is another name for students. We are not just to follow Jesus or to believe in Him, we are meant to learn from Him and emulate His actions. His disciples ranged in age from their late teens (John) to the late 30’s / early 40’s (Peter). Even the great teacher, St. Paul, spent 12 years learning more about Jesus before beginning his missionary work.
In the early Church, one of the first things that was done was to set up Christian education centers, called monasteries, for the instruction of both young and old. In the Celtic Christian tradition this education was offered regardless of gender - yes, those silly Celts even taught women to read and write; scandalous in the 400’s! Luther would promote and encourage learning at all ages and even developed text books to aid in learning (Small Catechism for kids, Large Catechism for adults). The point is, our learning about God and how to live as Christians never ends.
But how do we do this in a post Covid-19 world? We can’t all gather around a table shoulder to shoulder sharing Bibles and other resources. Wiki, YouTube, and Google have their limitations. Zoom could be an effective way of getting together while staying socially distanced - but there’s always background noise, technical glitches, and the like. Facebook live and webinars (non interactive Zoom meetings) can work well so long as there aren’t too many questions. So how are we to continue learning when in person instruction is out and technological teaching has its shortcomings?
The best way is the way it’s always been done - one on one with a mentor and a mentee. Most of the instruction we are told to do takes place in this one to one environment, usually a parent or grandparent passing down what they have learned to their offspring. Yet those who experienced the homeschooling experiment of March to June realize that the parents need to be informed first to be able to teach. Even if its not perfect, professor-level learning, the faith can be taught by letting the faith be caught. Our lifestyle and example will teach far more than our words will.
So will you walk the path the Lord has set, to walk in His ways as the Psalmists so often encourage? Will you teach and share what you know, while still learning and growing in your faith yourself? As we as a nation prepare to go “back to school” don’t let the new ways of learning make you a truant and leave you “simple”. Join with us Sunday mornings for worship (online if that’s the safest option for you), on our Wednesday night Zoom devotions, or other ways of coming together to learn from Lord Jesus. There’s plenty left to learn, let’s learn it together. Amen.
Pastor Brian Handrich graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1997. He first served a dual parish in northeast Nebraska before coming to Flemington, New Jersey in 2002.