When you hear that term, what do you think of? Sunday School? Christian College? An elementary school run by the local church? Evolution vs. Creation?
Actually, I don’t think there is just one universally accepted definition of the term. And I’m gonna confuse the issue even more. I want to propose a new definition, encompassing every facet of human life.
Humans learn everything through involvement with others. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 18th century experiment designed to discover what language children would speak if they never heard any spoken words. This experiment was conducted in an orphanage, where those caring for the newborn babies were instructed to feed them, but not to talk to them. No cuddling or singing either. Surprising to the author of this, all the babies died before tehy were two, without ever speaking anything! They died because they weren’t cuddled.
A horrible story, which has been used innumerable times to illustrate the human need for love. Which is an important point, but not the one I’m going for here. (We’ll get back to it, though.)
The point I want to make is that those children never learned to talk, because they never heard language.
Talking, walking, writing, reading, driving, cooking, cleaning, and every human endeavor imaginable are all learned by watching someone else do it, and/or listening to someone else’s instruction.
The only or firstborn child learns from the adults around him, while children with older siblings have someone more their own size to observe, who is less busy with outside things.
This is why we have teachers in school – because whether we’re adults or babies, or anywhere in between, we learn by watching and hearing someone else do it. Over and over and over again.
So here’s what I’m proposing for a new Christian Education. When new members enter our local body, they are taken under wing by older siblings. They are taught how to stand, to walk, to read and write, and even fight!
But not just in the spiritual facet.
Let’s do it across the entire human experience:
Teach baby sheep how to grow up into Him.
Teach new parents how to parent properly.
Teach everyone how to handle money well.
Help each member of His family become who He created them to be.
Teach good communication and relationship skills, with God and with other humans.
Teach cooking and cleaning and changing the oil, and whatever else needs to be learned!
Every single thing that goes into being human should be covered by the Body of Christ. If you think he only cares about ‘spiritual’ things, think again!!
If that was true, He wouldn’t have healed people’s bodies, or fed them, or asked John to take care of his mother, Mary, as He was dying on the cross.
In fact, He wouldn’t have even bothered dying on the cross, if He didn’t care about the non-spiritual aspects of human life. He and Father would have figured out some spiritual sacrifice that entailed no physical, emotional, relational (You think He wanted to see His mother hurting like that?) pain and death whatsoever.
But God knew that we needed to be saved in every facet, so Jesus died in every facet!
So why isn’t His body addressing every facet when we give birth to new sheep/kingdom babies? Is there a better or safer place to learn how to love yourself and others across all the facets of human-ness than the body of Christ, where the God who is love is our head?
Back to that 18th century experiment – we need love, and if we don’t have it we die. If the church isn’t teaching out of His love, across every facet, people will learn what they need from satan’s kingdom. If people come to church on Sunday morning to get ‘spiritually fed’, but on Monday turn to their ungodly neighbor for advice on raising children and doing their taxes, who are they really living for/by?
One last point – I’m not suggesting the creation of a slew of new programs. Those expend way more energy than they are worth, exhausting the workers, and giving new people the idea that they can ‘opt out’ if they don’t like something. Yet real life doesn’t work like that. The new baby is stuck with those older siblings, just as much as with the parents. So baby learns from them all.
Total immersion isn’t just for learning a foreign language. It’s how we learn everything, so why not bring it into the local body?
This will probably entail a rethinking of the whole dynamic of church, but that’s a good thing. It’s past time we disposed of the world’s way of doing things, and truly became the living body of our living head, Jesus Christ.
May you, as we begin a new calendar year, grow into new places across every facet of your human-ness.
May He show you how and where you can allow Him to work through you to help His other children to grow in their facets.
And may you know more fully the oneness with Him that enables us to do anything!
Here’s to life — abundant life in Him – for you and your loved ones this coming year!