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From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-05-13-1My heart sputtered and thumped as my palms greased the steering wheel. Sitting at a stoplight on an incline, my grandfather (I called him Papa) was giving me my first driving lesson in a manual shift vehicle. He could have taken me anywhere, but he chose a busy downtown street with hills and lights. The light turned green. I made an attempt at the footwork, but I didn’t give it enough gas. The engine stopped, and the car started rolling backward. “Calm down,” Papa stated with an even voice. “Just try again.”

By the time I got the car started, the light was already yellow, then red. A line was forming behind me. The next time the light turned, the same thing happened—and the next time. The line was getting long. Horns were honking. I may or may not have been crying. Papa sat calmly, repeating the same instructions, apparently undeterred by the mob of traffic on our heels.

“I’m not ready for this!” I barked. “You’re gonna learn fast,” Papa  smiled.

And I did.

Many of us make a puzzling assumption when it comes to learning. We think learning precedes doing. One reason for this is because our culture has wired us to think this way. It’s a classic educational model. We spend time in the classroom, then, once we have sufficiently learned, we go and do.

Churches are good at this model. We offer 101 and 201 classes. We pass out books and binders and ask people to follow along and fill in the blanks. We focus on classroom learning. And we should. I value intentional efforts to resource people for the work of the Kingdom. But this paradigm can easily reinforce the mindset of learning, then doing.

Another reason why this educational model appeals to us is simply because it’s safe. The classroom is controlled and predictable. Risk is minimal—and so is the reward. Churches are filled with people who think, “I’ve signed up for the classes. I’m learning, and one day when I’m ready, I’ll go out and serve the Lord.”

For Jesus, learning and doing weren’t so much separate exercises. He didn't gather His students and section them off to prepare them. Instead, for Jesus, learning and doing intertwined. His invitation was not “Sit down and listen to me,” it was “Come follow me” (Matt. 4:19 TNIV). In other words, Jesus brought them along into the thick of His work, even though they were not yet ready. The learning was the doing, and the doing was the learning.

Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and He taught like one. A rabbi’s traveling school was less like a classroom and more like a laboratory. It was a messy, bumpy process. The Twelve failed plenty along the way, but Jesus expected this. He obviously was frustrated, but He continued to work with them.

Our task today is no different than the work of Jesus. Or rather, our work really is His work done through us. And that work is to make disciples of Jesus. We best fulfill our work when we pry fingers from binders and call people into the thick of the work with us. Our invitation as church leaders should not just be “listen to me,” but “come with me,” “feed with me,” “heal with me,” and “love with me.” We make disciples best when we cross the neat, clean separation between learning and doing.

I value and owe much of my own growth to classes, teachers, and books. I do not advocate abandoning such resources, but they should supplement our serving. After all, there were times when Jesus sat His disciples down and taught them. But those instances were seamlessly woven into the larger framework of going and serving.

When I call people into Kingdom work, I often sense their reluctance. I hear their hesitation. I understand how unready they are. But I remember that the disciples’ lack of readiness did not deter Jesus from inviting them. I remind them they are not alone. And then I tell them, “You’re gonna learn fast.”

And they will.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee. He is the author of Shift: How Nine Churches Experienced Vibrant Renewal.

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