Missions Musings 17: Reaching the churched

Good-News-Art-F1-600x300Many of us who live and work in foreign contexts are working with the churched.

When I say churched I am speaking about those people who have been enculturated within a society where the institutional church looms large.

In such contexts the Church’s function is often to dispense salvation.  The church is the one-stop-shop that’s attended twice per year to get what is needed for eternity.  More often than not the churched know of God in a vague abstract sense.  They know about Jesus and his death in as much detail as you or I know about Joan of Arc and her death.  Yep, we’ve seen the movie:)

How does one reach these people?  That is, how does one communicate the life-giving truth of the gospel to those who have not heard it yet?  Here are a few things that have become a part of the way that I do it:

1.  Know their theology

If we do not know what they believe how can we with good conscience rip them away from the church through which they think they are being saved?  We need to be very diligent in understanding what they believe and why so that we can be sure that our actions and message is not in fact dividing the body of Christ.

What should we get to know?  Understand the role of their church in salvation.  Get know what they mean by salvation.  Clearly understand  the place of the sacraments and the role they play in salvation.  Work out what authority they attribute to the Bible and also to tradition.  These points in particular are crucial.

2.  Understand their theological language

This is distinct though closely related to the first point.  Just because you hear the same words being used does not mean that you are talking about the same thing.   So for example, when an Eastern Orthodox believer states that they are saved by faith, we protestants should on face value heartily agree.  Yet if someone was to probe a little deeper the disparity between what the EO christian believes and what a protestant believes becomes apparent.  Ask questions to understand what they mean when they use theological terms.

3.  Use common points of agreement for discussion and study.

It’s a no-brainer, but rarely done.  What normally happens is that we jump to the differences, like icons, candles, papal authority, etc.  Engaging with commonality was Paul’s method at the Areopagus that day in Acts 17.  This is a good starting point because there is often commonality to be found in the person and work of Jesus.  Well, great!  Why don’t we start with Jesus.

Avoid the contentious issues and begin with Jesus.  In Colossians this is how Paul worked.  The church is struggling because fine-sounding arguments have permeate the church which has displaced the gospel.  What does he do?  He doesn’t tackle the apparent error head on until he has prepared the foundation.  Paul firstly explains who Jesus is and then he goes on to explain the gospel.  Only then does he get stuck into the issue at hand.

4.  Don’t treat them like a non-Christian

This is an interesting point that taps into our need to be sensitive.  The churched consider themsleves to be Christians, and they often assume to know everything (don’t we all!) that they need to know.  Therefore to come at them with all the answers and the ‘truth’ is a fast track to causing offense and shutting down any opportunities for good discussion.  Be careful with how they perceive your take on their Christianity.

5.  Use the Bible

Once again it sounds like a no-brainer, but so often the Bible is often sidelined in favour of topical and spaghetti style discussions.  Get the Bible out and establish what the Bible has to say about the common points of interest.  Avoid saying things like, ‘God said…’  and ‘The Bible says…’ and ‘Jesus said….  Unhelpful!  Demonstrate the authority of the Bible in your own faith by using it properly in discussion, taking into account the context of the passage and its place in the Bible’s big picture.  Use the Bible to deal with the issues, but also model its importance and how to use it.

5.  Be open to learning from them

In my study of Eastern Orthodoxy over the past 4 years I have come to appreciate some of their theology.  Let’s give credit where it is due.  Let’s show humility by genuinely wanting to understand what they believe.  It is poor form indeed to merely want to reach them without giving them the opportunity to convince you of their ideas and beliefs.  If we ourselves are seeking the truth then there is no need to be scared of genuinely weighing up what they will present.

6.  Don’t discount the idea that the churched might be in our own (protestant) churches

Don’t assume the gospel, teach it.


Book Review – Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology

anglcanSydney Anglicanism: An Apology.  By Michael P. Jensen.  Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2012. $9.99 for Kindle version and $21.00 for paperback here.

Sydney Anglicans are fundamentalist, sexist, theological and political bullies, and not faithful to historical Anglicanism.  These are some of the claims that Jensen seeks to debunk in his book Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology – though not before presenting a raft of issues that need addressing, as well as possible ways that Sydney Anglicans can move forward as they look to the future.

The book is divided into two parts: The Bible and The Church.  This division enables Jensen to not only address the concepts that are distinctively associated with Sydney Anglicanism, but also to engage with a number of opponents and arguments that have been pitted against Sydney Anglicanism.  Jensen also takes opportunities (especially in part two) to delve into Sydney’s unique culture and history to shed some light on why Sydney Anglicans are a unique breed.  This uniqueness, however, is carefully couched within an argument that seeks to maintain that Sydney Anglicanism is an extension not only of historical Anglicanism but also of the contemporary universal Anglican Communion.

Jensen begins part one by clarifying the term fundamentalism.  He subsequently defends the view that, according to the historical conception of fundamentalism, the labelling of Sydney Anglicanism as fundamentalist is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous.  The impression that Jensen gives is that the label fundamentalist is used of Sydney Anglicanism in the pejorative sense, in an attempt to impugn by mere association.  This is clearly an issue that Jensen seeks to lay to rest, which he achieves with the limited treatment that he gives.

The reader is then given a guided tour around the biblical distinctives of Sydney Anglicanism.  Of particular note is Graeme Goldsworthy’s pioneering of Biblical Theology.  This view holds that the Bible is a unity that centres on the cross of Christ, the event that orientates not only the New Testament but also the Old Testament.  As such the Bible is not a bunch of proof texts but a meta-narrative that informs not only how one reads the Bible but also how one teaches the Bible.

The final aspect of part one has to do with revelation and how this impacts praxis.  There are two primary discussions, the first of which engages with Peter Carnley’s mystical perspective, something not dissimilar to the Eastern Orthodox view of the unknowability of God.  Jensen portrays this view as seeking to distinguish itself from Sydney Anglicanism, which Jensen identifies is encapsulated in Broughton Knox’ clumsily titled article, ‘Propositional Revelation, the Only Revelation.’  The second discussion in this chapter engages with this article.  Jensen defends Knox by describing the title as hyperbole, however, Jensen does call for greater perspicuity of the issue for which he draws upon Peter Jensen’s The Revelation of God.  Essentially God’s self revelation is verbal, and it centres on the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not to be understood as a static statement, but a living reality.  In other words, the words Jesus Christ is propositional and personal (a means of encounter).  Jensen defends the historicity of this claim.

In the last chapter of part one, Jensen demonstrates why preaching, and in particular expositional preaching, is the natural corollary of God’s self revelation. If God reveals himself in the gospel, then the reading, explication and application of this revelation must be central to the gathering of believers.  Jensen refers to John Stott’s influential visit to Moore College in 1958 and his book I Believe in Preaching, as formative to Moore’s current views.  In particular, that expositional preaching does not describe a particular style, as is commonly understood, but rather describes a particular content, that is, whatever the text is saying.

In part two Jensen looks at the doctrine of church, in particular the influence of Robinson and Knox.  Jensen is refreshingly critical of Robinson’s narrow view that church is local and verbal (an activity) on the basis of the word ekklesia.  Three arguments are worthy of mention.  Firstly, Jensen highlights the NT usage of ‘the Church of God’, a clear reference to an earthly church.  Secondly, Jensen shows that the Broughton-Know view was overly linguistically analytical and not sufficiently theologically informed.  Thirdly, Jensen highlights the dearth of attention given to the Holy Spirit in the Broughton-Knox ecclesiology.

In chapter seven Jensen gets to the real beef when he addresses the question, ‘Are Sydney Anglicans Actually Anglicans?’  In short his answer is yes.  Jensen cites the Sydney Anglican conviction and fidelity to the reformers and their associated texts, and that Sydney Anglican evangelicalism is a true reflection of the Anglican Church’s reformation past.

Jensen then deals with the topical issue of ordaining women in a helpful manner.  He highlights that the Sydney Anglican’s use of the term ‘subordination’ was a mistake and unhelpful.  To compare the subordination of women to men in role with Jesus’ subordination to the Father in role could be (and was) construed as Arianism.  Jensen engages this issues by clarifying the relationship using different terminology.  This is a welcomed correction.  Furthermore, Jensen offers a number of constructive discussions that could help clarify and promote better Sydney Anglican synthesis on issues regarding gender. The most helpful of these would be to engage in dialogue to better understand how Sydney Anglicans are using the words authority and obedience.

In the final chapters, Jensen identifies that Sydney Anglican’s have on many fronts dug their heels in and held their ground, however, he also shows that they have work faithfully within the Anglican political machine, giving ground where they could.

This book is the first stop to understanding Sydney Anglicanism.  Jensen does not try to convert, but rather reveal with fresh eyes and with an appropriately critical spirit what is Sydney Anglicanism.  This book would also be a great help to those people  throughout Australia and the world who wish to understand organisations that have been influenced by Sydney Anglicanism and Moore College, and even to understand the Biblical foundations of individuals who may have studied at Moore College.

Book review: Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry

womenBourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry.  By Michael F. Bird.  Zondervan, 2012. $4.22 (On Kindle here).

Michael Bird often splits the pack with much of his theology.  In this readable and brief book Bird claims to do the same by seeking to find a middle ground between the often polarised perspectives of women in ministry.  This book is suitable for lay people who are seeking to understand how one might defensibly hold a somewhat egalitarian position.  However, this book is also useful for pastors and ministers that have assumed a position without thinking through the other side’s point of view.

The thesis of the book is that Paul not only endorsed women teaching in churches, but ‘Paul specifically encouraged it!’  In other words, Paul’s clear use of women in teaching roles must be integrated into any Pauline perspective of women in ministry.

After laying out his own journey from a complimentarian view towards a more egalitarian view Bird defines the terms and the spectrum on which they are found. This is a concise and helpful summary of the main players and their perspective of the debate.

In chapter 2, Bird presents the complimentarian reader with a conundrum, which is that Paul used a woman to deliver, read and expound his theological masterpiece – Romans – to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1-2).  This cameo by Phoebe is the ground-breaker that Bird uses to open the door to engage the idea that perhaps women can play a more substantial teaching role than complimentarians might suggest.

Bird then engages with the primary Pauline texts in this debate.  In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Bird argues that Paul is not creating a hierarchy, but rather couplets, in which the head is honored.  Because Paul is not articulating a hierarchy (God at the top and women at the bottom), Bird contends that this passage cannot be used to limit the role that women might play in ministry.  On the contrary, women and men alike are permitted and able to engage in the same ministries by maintaining their God-given gender identity according to the cultural norms and by ministering according to their gifts in an orderly fashion.

Regarding I Corinthians 14:33-36 the issue of the interpolation stands out.  Even though this might solve Bird’s issue, he simply but effectively plays away the notion that the difficult verses of 33b-35 are an inserted interpolation by calling upon textual and internal evidence.  He treats the difficult verses in another way.  By drawing upon the reason behind Paul’s instruction for women on how to carry themselves in public worship, Bird mounts his case.  Women must honor their husband in their public use of speech.  Bird states: ‘It is the type of speaking and not the possibility of wives speaking that Paul prohibits.’

The third text that Bird deals with is Ephesians 5:21-24.  Whereas this passage is often called upon to explicate the submission of women to their husbands, Bird calls the readers’ attention to verse 21, which calls for mutual submission.  He defends this notion of mutual submission by referring to other passages like 1 Corinthians 7:4 and 11:11.  Bird also draws upon some anecdotal evidence to show how submission to the head of the house often meant submitting to a woman.  If the church was lead by the head of the house (i.e. Chloe in 1 Corinthians 1, 7 and 11) then it is no surprise to learn that there were sanctioned woman leaders in the early churches.

Before Bird moves on to Galatians 3:26-29, he makes note of Paul’s female co-workers who had teaching roles in the church, where he returns to more fully deal with Phoebe’s role in the delivery of Romans to the church in Rome.  When Bird turns his attention to Galatians, he argues that this passage is primarily dealing with soteriology.  What determines if one is in Christ or not?  Not race, gender or societal position.  But while this text has soteriological emphasis, Bird claims it also has ecclesiological implications.  If men and women are one in Christ then gender cannot be the quality that dictates ministry roles.

Finally, Bird looks at the 1 Timothy 2:11-15 text that at first glance is a knockout blow to the egalitarian cause.  Bird begins his defence by looking at the perspective that God’s created order was the driving argument in this text, instead of one that was culturally confined.  This appeal to creation, however, is not in line with 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and the command for women to cover their heads on the grounds of the created order.  The command in this instance is obviously culturally driven and therefore not universally applicable, and so Bird argues that an appeal to the creation principle does not necessarily imply a universal application.

Bird’s second defence is somewhat logical.  He says that a decision to restrict women from teaching should be consistent at all levels and all contexts, both religious and secular.  If this is a divine principle embedded in creation then it should translate to all spheres of existence.  In the end, Bird denies that the driving argument in this text is one that appeals to creation, but rather is one that is embedded in the cultural issues of the time.  Women may not teach men if they are teaching false doctrine with a view to gain superiority over men as was the custom in Ephesus at the time.

This book argues against a simple reading of the relevant texts.  Bird’s persistent calling for consistency with regard to the use of the created order to defend a complimentarian perspective is convincing, as is his call for consistency in implementing this divine order.  While these arguments dent the complimentarian view, Bird’s own argument is weakened by the speculative nature of having to depend on cultural reconstructions.  While he aims at a middle ground between the egalitarian and the complimentarian perspectives, Bird does not demonstrate why the lead pastor, bishop or other such figure should be male, even though this is his preference.  If one was to take his arguments at face value one might well have to argue for equal opportunity in these roles too.

Vacant: Theological education and the equal validity of secular and ministry vocations

its_about_timeThis post has been sitting in my draft box for a fair while now.  The time has come, however, to post it on the wall.

What prompted such drastic action?

I am working my way through Michael Jensen’s latest book called Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology (Book review to come.  You can buy the book here).  He made this striking comment:

Valuing gospel work over secular work was indeed a decision for the eternal rather than the ephemeral because the “the time is short” (1 Cor 7:29).  This authentically biblical theology has enormous power as a critique of a this-worldly, middle-class idolatry of careers in the hothouse environment of the university campus (Loc. 2618 Kindle).

anglcanThe interesting thing about this comment is that it is embedded in a section that describes the role that campus ministry has played in developing a university and post-universtiy culture that highly values not only ministry as a ‘career option’ but also fulltime theological education.

The original reason why I was going to write this blog post was because I was asked why theological education enrollments, particularly full-time enrollments, might be dropping?

In my mind I ran through a number of possible answers.  It’s expensive.  It takes ages to complete.  It’s really hard.  ‘Languages?  Seems a little excessive.’  The pay once you’re done is ordinary.  Once you’re done you get treated like rubbish in churches and para-church ministries.  I should stop.

While all of these are factors that must be impacting theological studies enrollments, I think however, that none of these are singularly responsible for any great decline.

This is where my original thoughts and Jensen’s come together.

I read this in The Christian Post here:

NEW YORK – Pastor Tim Keller challenged a crowd of New York City professionals Sunday to rethink how they view work and to debunk the notion that spiritual vocations matter more to God than secular work.

The article writer referred to the need to cease making the distinction between spiritual work and secular work because such labelling devalues work that does not fall into the typical spiritual vocations.  This is nothing new from Keller and others of his kind.  We’ve been hearing this kind of reasoning for years now.

How might Keller level the playing field.  Check out this quote:

It means getting together to think, think, how does the preeminence of God reign in my field.

kellerSo, Keller validates all work (within reason, of course) by locating it within the overarching notion that whatever we do we do to God’s glory.  As long as we are evaluating and carrying our the occupation according to how it might be viewed through a gospel lens, all is ok.  I could have Keller wrong on this, but this is the overwhelming sense that I get from him.

Here is the rub.

In trying to eliminate the spiritual work vs temporal work dichotomy, Keller renders all work on par with each other.  This is problematic and it is hurting the enrollment bottom line.

The so called ‘spiritual vocations’ do matter more to God.  It is for this reason that in James we read that teachers of the Bible will be doubly judged.  But why, in the same breath, are these same people worth double honour?  Why are scribes or tentmakers not singled out to receive this curse and blessing?  The cleaners are not going to be judged doubly based upon their cleaning effort, so in what sense is the teaching role so different that it deserves such special treatment?

In Ephesians 4 Paul in clear in drawing attention to the word gifts as vital for the church.  How are individuals in the church equipped to do good works and even build the church up to maturity in Christ? Answer:  by the gospel being faithfully taught.   Those that do this are the people who will be judged double and rewarded likewise for their work.

But why?  Why are these roles set apart for special consideration?

churchplantingI’m going to suggest it is because these roles are fundamentally bound to the spiritual vitality of the church.  These roles are inextricably bound to the church reaching maturity in Christ, and it is here that we connect back with Jensen.  He continues:

The note of eschatological urgency was not now offered at the expense of tending to the needs of society as it had been then [the end of the 19th century].  Opportunities to do good are still reckoned by the Anglicans of Sydney to be opportunities to do good, whatever the lateness of the eschatological hour.

What drives the notion that gospel work is more valued over secular work?  Eschatology.  That is, the final divine state of affairs.  If one’s doctrine of the local church is linked to the eschatological church then one wonders how we could relegate the ministry of the word to something on par with secular work.

This perspective, I think, does not demean or relegate secular work, but rather positively identifies which earthly Christian activities are divinely factored into God’s meta-narrative.  The inverse should not be assumed, that is, that cleaning, teaching, or surf-lifesaving do not fit into this ‘lofty’ category and therefore are of no value.

Perhaps if we heed this order and stop validating all work as equal, we might see a culture develop in our churches that values theological education and also full-time ministry.  Although I would argue that this is not the intent of the divine order, this outcome would certainly go along way towards building up the body of Christ – the true intent of the divine order.

Please let me know your thoughts on this if you have any.  I’m keen to hear how people might take this:)

The Bad Thing About Love

Why love?

I spoke at a friend’s wedding the other day here in Bulgaria.  It was an interesting experience as all first time cultural experiences are.  It went smoothly.  No hiccups are bloopers.  Always a good thing at a wedding!

A while after the wedding I was surfing the net and I was put straight by a prominent Christian pastor, teacher, writer, etc.  They undid my whole entire wedding sermon.  Let me paraphrase the comment they made: By loving others we will discover that it leads to happiness.

…and here I was telling the newlyweds that we as a culture have been stung by the lie that love is a commodity.

Where do we find in the Bible that when we love others there is something in it for us?  I’m still searching.  But is the quote an error?

Firstly, if you’re struggling to find such an idea in the Bible it’s probably worth asking the question if it’s worth teaching in the first place.  Secondly, as a good friend wrote on his blog the other day (here), fish in water don’t go around asking other fish how the water is – it’s a part of life that fish take for granted.  I think that this kind of statement betrays a culture that has become immersed in an idea.  It reflects the consumer nature of our culture – this is what we are immersed in, and we are seeing this become a part of the church’s water too.  Thirdly, and this is where I want to dwell, this statement robs believers of something greater than reaction driven happiness.

The point of my wedding sermon was grounded in Ephesians 5, but not the normal wedding section in verse 21-33.  I focussed on verse 1.  Here we get a real good look at love and we see that it is not presented as a commodity that brings a return.

‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’

There are two lies that have seemed to gain traction that run counter to this passage.  The first is that the reason one should  love is because of what we can get out of it – happiness, for example.  Just look around.  This is a hopelessly flawed reason to love because loving others doesn’t always bring happiness – just ask my parents or any other parent!  In fact, loving people often hurts more than anything in the world and resembles or brings a return of anything but happiness.

The second lie is that the reason to love is because others love us, but this is a stupid idea!  Imagine if we all operated on that principle?  The world would spiral into a world of lovelessness as one act of non-love leads to another and to another…  Please help us.  I’m going to call this one ‘Hollywood Love’.  If I don’t get love (the kind of love that I want, when I want it, how I want it) I’ll find someone who can give it to me.

The Apostle Paul offers another motivation to love, which reflects, I think, the overwhelming sense that we see in the New Testament.  Imitate God’s love because God loved us.

Firstly the grounds.  He loved us even though we didn’t deserve it.  God’s love is not bound to my prior or subsequent love for him.  It stands alone, indifferent to my attitude to him.  He loves not because it made him happy.  He loves because it was his good will to love.  That is what love is!

Secondly, the extent.  He loved us that much that he would sacrifice his own son in our place.  He doesn’t love according to what I deserve.  There is no criteria that must be met before I receive love.  Love cannot be half-baked.  A half love, which is not the whole love, is not love at all – a twist on a saying about truth.  Love is costly and full.

Paul tells his readership to love as God has demonstrated his love to them.  We must love by assuming the same grounds for showing love and also the extent of love.

Love is a special thing and any use of it as a commodity robs the believer of something so much greater than happiness.  When we love we are constantly engaging with the greatest act of love ever shown.  We are constantly engaging with the beautiful result of being loved by God.  When we love, the result is that God’s love is exalted before the world.  Love, for the believer is about God and his love for his world that he would send Jesus to save it by dying a death that it deserved.

Loving others is the natural result of being a recipient of  God’s – it is willing and it is self-less.

This is unfortunately bad thing about love – it’s not about me!

The Real Easter Celebration

We celebrated Easter in the West last weekend, and now we see that the church in the East is in the middle of their Easter festive season.  So when should we really celebrate it?

I reckon it’s a good question to ask.

Last Friday I wrote about how our small group/church in Borovtsi was celebrating Easter even though we were a tad early. In our Friday Easter (though not Easter) study and reflection we looked at how our view of Jesus and his cross-work cannot be understood apart from the salvation signifying events of the Old Testament, in particular the events surrounding the miraculous saving of the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptian regime.

In similar fashion to the study, my post focussed on how the cross is not able to be separated from the larger story being played out on the canvas of history, as recorded in the text of the Bible.

The centrality of Jesus’ cross-work in (redemptive) history sheds light on when we should celebrate the Easter events.

Of course, we all know the answer to the question, ‘When should we celebrate Easter?’ – let’s say in unison – ‘Every day!’

Easy question right?  Wrong!  For some reason we preachers and teachers seem to often miss this bit.

Two guys who also saw this basic answer to the posed question were Peter and Paul in that order, well, in Acts anyway.  If you don’t believe me, read their sermons in the book of Acts for yourself.

Ahhh, but Daniel you miss one vital point, and that is, that Peter and Paul were not speaking to churches or believers, but to unchurched non-believers.  Is this a fair point?  As a matter of fact I think it is, but before we move on please note their use of Jesus and his cross-work in their teaching.  He is the means for salvation, and also the reason for any given life response.

This being the case, have a glance then at Paul’s letters to the various churches in his care.  See how Jesus and his cross-work informs Paul’s instruction of not only how one is saved but how to live one’s life as one saved.  For Paul the so-called Easter events are the heart, soul and content of his teaching ministry.

Perhaps the events (understood as Jesus’ cross-work) should be the heart, soul and content of our teaching ministry too, but not only in theory, or in principle, or by implication, but in practice.

Indeed, Easter should be celebrated always.

Langham, Learning and Effectivenenss

Sorry for my lack of posting in the last 3 weeks – life has been more than hectic.  I have, however, found some time to post on an interesting and worthwhile upcoming event in Sofia.

I’m excited about the Langham Partnership preaching conference that will be in Bulgaria from the 30th May to the 4th April (click here for more info).  Great times ahead… for some!

But why only for some?

In thinking about the event I was wondering why someone would not want to come to the week-long conference.  Of course there are whole bunch of valid practical reasons that might stop someone from coming, but what would stop someone coming who has the time, finances, and flexibility to attend?

I don’t have to go far to answer this question – I just need to look into my own heart, and my past experience.

My first career was as a cleaner.  It all changed once I graduated university.

If I learnt nothing else while doing my education degree, it was that to be a good teacher I needed to keep learning.  The phraseology at the time rested on the acronym ‘LLL’, which stands for Life-Long Learning.  I had nightmares about these three letters by the time I became a real teacher.

I cannot help but think how important (and expensive!) that drilling has been over the past seven years in the time while I was teaching, and also in my pastoral ministry.

LLL means a number of things to me:

Firstly, I need to be humble.  Learning is a matter of submission.  I am not at the top of the pile, but rather am dependent on others to continue to learn, grow and become more effective at my trade.  I need to recognise this and submit myself to the teaching of others more knowledgable and experienced than myself.

Secondly, I have not arrived.  I remember my Old Testament professor telling us aspiring world changers that when we graduate we will know just enough to be dangerous.  And dangerous I was… and still am!  His point is that we often think we are the expert and as such have the privilege(?) to lord it over those who are not.  LLL means that we recognise that we are not experts, even though it may feel as though we are.  There is much more to be learned.

Thirdly, I am open to new learning.  It is fine to be willing to learn and to submit to someone to learn, but if I am not open to changing my current performance, practices, content, theories, method, knowledge base, perspectives, etc., then there is little point to learning.  LLL is an attitude that seeks to learn, not for learning’s sake, but so that I can be more effective at my trade.

Fourthly, I am active.  It is not the responsibility of others to keep me learning.  It is my responsibility to be constantly seeking out the people, organisations, venues, websites, books, blogs, etc.  I cannot afford to wait for the expert to tap me on my should before I begin to start learning.  I need to be tapping them on the shoulder.

Fifthly, I am ready for hard work.  If we think that being effective in our respective trades is easy then we are sorely mistaken.  Achieving effectiveness in whatever trade is a difficult exercise because it requires time, effort, and commitment.  This means learning.  This means hard work.

Now, when I reflect on my attitude towards conferences and seminars I realise that I find myself resisting all of the above LLL factors.  I don’t need to go because I already know it, and am already effective.  I have arrived!

Those of us involved in a teaching/preaching ministry regularly need to be in the seat of the learner.  There is much to learn from our Lord, and there is much to be learned from other servants of our Lord.

In the same way that we sit at the Lord’s feet and humbly learn, we also need to sit at the trusted Godly feet of those from whom we have much to learn.