His words brought me up short. Gregg Neel is co-pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, Ore. He was our guest on our weekly webinar, talking about how his church has decided to come out of the pandemic accelerating into opportunities outside the church rather than decelerating back into former patterns that called for a retreat into the church.
His message: “We simply told them that we’re done educating you; now we want you to put into practice what you’ve learned.”
“We’re done educating you.”
Wow. Let’s think about that for a moment. He’s not saying education isn’t important. He’s not discounting Bible study or Sunday school or vacation Bible school or all the other educational options churches offer. He isn’t against commentaries or study guides or the zillion books — read and unread — on our bookshelves. He isn’t anti-seminary or divinity school or Bible college. In fact, he goes on to say they will continue education and community opportunities.
He’s simply saying: “ENOUGH!” You know enough already to do something. So, do something.
Gregg’s contention is that the pandemic has torn an opening in the traditioned fabric of most churches, and now they must jump through that opening. The needs of your surrounding community are so pressing and so obvious that not to act now on what you know from years of study is to forfeit the best opportunity you may ever have to breathe life into lifeless studies and moribund faith.
Is he right?
I think so. I don’t really want it to be true, but I think it is. I am increasingly concerned that our churches will be sucked back into old patterns of acting and believing on the other side of the pandemic. Unless we act with relentless energy and passion, the magnetic pull of the familiar and the routine soon will douse the small flames of renewal that have emerged over the last 13 months.
In effect, our members have been out on a mission trip for 13 months. What they have seen and started and done will be lost if we call them back “in” and fail to see that this represents a crucial shift that has been needed for a long time in most churches.
“What if we agreed that we all know enough to act?”
What if we agreed that we all know enough to act? Isn’t it time to graduate from Sunday school? Now, we need to invite the Holy Spirit to help us navigate the world as agents of salt and light. Let’s ask the Spirit to show us how to bring a needed word of hope, justice, love and reconciliation to our world.
You probably won’t have to search hard or wait long. I’m convinced God has a long list of projects that are just waiting for God’s people to join. The problem? We’re holed up in the church studying about outreach or declining churches or aging congregations or secularism or hunger or poverty or racism or any of a thousand concerns that have immobilized us. Enough already. This is a time to put our knowledge into action.
Exercise those unused spiritual muscles and step out in faith. Join your brothers and sisters who seek to become ambassadors for Christ. He is calling you to move, to go, to follow him into the world and be the blessing promised since Abraham that God desires to share with all of humanity.
You know enough: Do something. For God’s sake, do something. We’re done educating you.