I was blessed with wise parents who understood that while they had lofty expectations for me, they never presumed that I wouldn’t have my share of rough patches along the way. They always knew that I was going to make mistakes, but they were equally quick to let me know that they wanted me to learn from them. So, I grew up having numerous parental conversations where I was asked the question, “And what did we learn from this experience?”
I have to say that those conversations set a tone for me to which I have continued to pay attention to this day. Getting older hasn’t meant that I have automatically gotten more mature (and certainly not less imperfect). But it has given me untold opportunities to think about what has taken place and to stay with the consequences of my actions so that when I have done well, I could think of ways to sustain that level of performance, and when I haven’t done so well, I could learn from my mistakes.
I wonder if churches might grow more proficient in their ministries if they did the same thing. After all, no church is perfect. Sometimes we do our work well and other times we miss the chance to make an impact for the Kingdom. But always we are smart to learn from our actions so that as God opens doors of opportunities for us in the future, we might lean into them in ways that enable us better to advance the cause of Christ.
One of the secrets to the early Church’s success seems to have been along these lines. Look at Paul’s letters and see how many times Paul, like a good parent, urges his readers to give serious consideration to the consequences of their actions so that they might distinguish themselves even more as God’s people. It may well be that the reason the Holy Spirit led later believers to give authority to these letters was so that the church in the future might learn something that would enable it to be more faithful to God’s mission in their day as well.
We are fortunate to be a part of a church that does so many things well. But my guess is that as gifted as our people are, as the years have passed, there have been challenges we were confronted with and setbacks we encountered that we not only learned from but also grew from so that we have come to this present moment a more effective fellowship. I want you to know that in spite of the fact that I have been serving as a pastor to some congregation for almost 40 years, I’m still working to get better, and I invite you to join with me in becoming a “lifelong learner” as well. Only then will we move closer to becoming all that Jesus needs us to be.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).