Do you like learning?
Knowing you, there will be a number of different answers to that question, like: yes, I love learning, no, not really, learning is too much like school, or I like learning new things but by watching the history channel, working on engines, or reading books.
The great thing of about learning new things is we get to grow, become more knowledgable, and better able to help others with our new knowledge. But learning also requires us to be willing to be taught, which includes correcting faulty information, fixing mistakes, and being willing to admit we are wrong sometimes so we can learn to be right.
Being a part of a church family is all about learning and that can be hard for us, especially if we don’t want to learn. In a sermon I preached a while ago, I shared with the congregation one of the top reasons people have stated that they don’t go to church is that they don’t want to be told that they are wrong.
Nobody wants to be wrong
We get that, don’t we? Nobody really likes hearing that they have made mistake, or are on the wrong road, or doing something wrong. We often don’t want to hear it because we want to keep doing what we are doing. This may be one of the hardest struggles that church families have in sharing the good news of Jesus and bringing friends and family into a church home, it requires that someone we are sharing with to be willing to learn and also admit that they may be wrong about some things so they can learn to be right.
As a kid, I remember learning this passage from Proverbs 9:7-9 that taught me which side of learning, the willing or unwilling, that I wanted to be on.
“Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.”
I wanted and still do, to be the one who was willing to learn and not be like the wicked mockers who refuse to learn and beat up the people trying to help them. This proverb is so true, if someone is not willing to learn and grow they will not come to a church family because they will be challenged and taught. Usually.
You’re not wrong or you’re always wrong!
Churches have often dealt with this difficulty in two different extremes. One is the people pleasing church that never challenges it’s parishioners but only focuses on the feels good kind of style and the other extreme is the ultra-challenging, in the club, kind of church. Jesus however dealt with this exact challenge differently, meeting people where they are at, but always challenging them to go deeper. Take this example from John 6 when Jesus feeds the 5,000.
Are you in the community?
First, Jesus teaches a large community of people from the surrounding cities on the Old Testament. Jesus would even feed them all they can eat bread and fish (coffee and donuts in our terms). They liked that. But then they wanted the easy food of free bread and easy teaching all of the time and Jesus isn’t willing to let them stay there.
Or the congregtion?
So, Jesus’ teaching goes deeper and challenges them, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 9:26). So with this challenge, a large group from the surrounding community has already left, they aren’t willing to learn, but you still have a congregation of people around Jesus.
Are you the committed?
Jesus teaching then goes even deeper and even more challenging.“But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:54-55). This teaching was the beginning of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But instead of being willing to learn and admit that their assumptions about God and faith might be wrong, the rest of the people leave, saying “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” (John 9:60) Jesus asks them if this teaching is too challenging for you what will you do when I ascend to heaven!
Next, all that was left was the 12 disciples, the committed. Jesus asks them if they are going to leave to? Peter, speaking for the twelve says these beautiful words that tell Jesus they are willing to listen, learn, be challenged, and admit they are wrong. “Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 9:68).
Or the core?
With those words, Peter says, we’re willing to learn and oh, what do they learn! They learn the very words that give eternal life! Isn’t learning the words of eternal life worth being challenged and even admitting our wrong? Finally, with this, Peter and the other disciples follow Jesus and learn to be the core: leaders who are always learners.
Where are you?
I don’t know where you are at in this process of faith development and growth. Maybe you are in the community and have been getting this newsletter but you’re not part of a church family, are part of a church family by name only (you’re on a membership roll somewhere) or you occasionally attend on the special days like Christmas or Easter. Likely, you are in the congregation and active, but you haven’t allowed yourself to be really challenged by Jesus and delve deeper into your faith. Maybe you are flirting with the idea or you’ve tried it and you’re just not ready to jump into the deep end, yet. Many, many of you are the committed who through bible study, fellowship, prayer, and devotion are being taught the more challenging but fulfilling aspects of the faith. Some of you are the core, learners who are leaders who are always learning and being challenged by Jesus and doing the same for others.
Jesus meets you where you are
This is a process called discipleship. The goal is to be ever moving from the community to the congregation to the committed to the core and not get stuck because we’re too stubborn to admit we might be wrong and Jesus might just be right.
Even the committed and core moves in and out and is always challenged to keep learning and growing. The challenge of faith will always look like this until the Lord comes back and the full knowledge of the Lord cannot be denied. But are you willing to be teachable, to be a learner, to admit you’re wrong sometimes so you can learn to be right. Or are you going to be unwilling to bend and give? If we can’t admit we are wrong with the small things that Jesus teaches, like being in worship on a regular basis, how well will we admit we are wrong and Jesus is right with the most important things, like the words of eternal life?
Jesus will always meet you where you are but Jesus will always challenge you to go deeper.