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Learning faith

WHEN THE financial bottom line becomes the means of determining the value of everything, education is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold.

Its value is seen in its capacity to prepare a person to be a more effective economic unit in the market place.

Those fields of study which are more financially productive become the most respected.

In such a world, theology once the queen of sciences, is regarded as an idle pastime.

According to Matthew and Mark, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, he answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind”.

We seem very good at doing the first two, but too many Christians ignore the command to love God with their mind.

When I was a theological student I was asked to lead a Bible study for some young people, most of whom were university students.

They wanted to know something about the Old Testament so I introduced them to the insights I had learnt through my study.

These young people were shocked and said that they were not up for something that “heavy”.

I asked them why they were prepared to use their intellect on medicine, law, engineering and education, but were not prepared to put the same effort into knowing about their faith. 

Christian education was once a significant part of our life in the Church.

We ran all age Sunday Schools; we expected sermons that stretched our thinking rather than just made us feel good.

We believed that it was important to have a growing understanding of the Bible, since that would help us know God and all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
With great exuberance the Basis of Union says:
“The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith.”

Education was more important than making us more employable, it was seen as the means of loving God with our minds and learning more about the one in whose image we believed we were created. This was the reason the Church was so involved in establishing schools and founding university colleges.

The Church believed that an education founded on faith in Jesus Christ and informed by the Scriptures and a sound knowledge of the world would establish its students as mature disciples.

In May our Schools Commis-sion hosted a morning which drew together principals, chaplains and board members of Uniting Church associated  schools.

It demonstrated a renewed desire for these schools to be seen as an important part of the mission of the Uniting Church.

Such a movement is reflected in other synods across Australia and gives hope that education in our schools will do more than make their students productive economic units, but help them build a life founded on Jesus Christ.

However education must not be restricted to our formal institutions.

Now that people no longer come “to church” to learn about God, it is important for each Christian to be able to speak confidently about their faith and explain the hope that is
within them.

Each of us must be willing to explain to those who are seeking what God has done for us in Jesus.

We need to be able to tell others why, in the face of so much negativity towards faith and the church, we hold onto the conviction that God is the centre of our being and why we choose to participate in the life of the church.

This is the time for all of us to find a renewed passion for growing and stretching our faith in Christ.

Christian education needs to live again in all our congregations as much as in our schools.

If your local congregation is not able to provide opportunities for you to engage more fully in a discipleship program, why not contact the Pilgrim Learning Community and see what excites your interest.

Education for life is not about growing the economy, but helping us reach the full stature of Jesus Christ.