The Work of the Church: Learning

The Work of the Church: Learning

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Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:6-10

Knowledge is power.  If we have no knowledge, we can’t have power.  If we have knowledge of something, that something can have power in our lives.  This is especially true when it comes to the knowledge of the Lord.  For the one who knows the Lord well, the Lord has great power to mold the shape of life.  For one who is ignorant of the Lord, their heart is not open to the power of God shaping their life.

One of our core values, then, is learning.  The more we know about God, the stronger influence we will allow Him to have in our lives.  We need to continually learn how to pray, so we can deepen our relationship with God.  We need to continually meditate on Scripture, to deepen our understanding of God’s Word.

The Church is many things—It is the place we worship, so it is a temple.  It is the place we come for healing, so it is a hospital.  And it is a place where we learn, so it is a school.  When we speak of the Church as a hospital, we know that there are two kinds of people in hospitals—those who are sick, and those who are healers.  In the context of the Church as a hospital, we find both as well.  Further, we must see ourselves in both roles.  We probably don’t consider ourselves to be healers when we are patients at the hospital and that would be correct.  However, in the context of the Church, we are supposed to both see ourselves in the role of patients (sinners who need healing) and healers (people who have the ability to minister to the hurts of others).

It is the same way when it comes to looking at the Church as a school.   We should see ourselves both as students and as teachers.  We are students who need to learn the Faith, and we also each have a role as teachers, to help others learn the Faith.

Every Church should have adequate programs to teach people of all ages.  Most churches have a Sunday school.  However, not every Sunday school has an adequate number of teachers, both people who have enough knowledge of the faith that they can teach, and even more important, people who have the conviction to step forward because they want to teach others.  One doesn’t have to be a teacher by vocation in order to teach Sunday school, or help teach at a youth group.

Many churches, sadly, do not have strong adult education programs.  In many churches that is because there isn’t enough adult interest, so Bible studies fizzle, and catechism classes are not sustained.  If God is really at the forefront of our lives, and if our desire is to know Him on a deeper level, then we should make time in our lives to study Him.  That may not fit at a particular time in our lives, i.e. if we have young children, but when people go through their entire life and never have studied the faith, and in old age, know hardly anything about the faith, something has gone wrong.

Also, many parents believe that Sunday school is solely responsible for the religious education of their children.  If the greatest influence on children is their parents, then the greatest religious influence on children will not come from the priest or the Sunday school teacher they see once a week, but from their parents, who model the faith on a daily basis.  It is important in our homes that we pray and read Scripture together, and that our children see us praying and reading Scripture.  It is important that we set aside Sunday morning’s for worship.  It is important that children learn how to give to charity and to serve those who are in need.

Before we can teach anyone, we must learn ourselves.  And we must not ever feel that we’ve exhausted learning.  Learning is something that should be continuous.  Just like how in most jobs, continuing education is a requirement in order to stay sharp and keep current, it works the same way in Christianity.  We should each engage in continuing education Christian education.

Finally, while “evangelism” is not one of the “core values” we have identified in my parish, it is certain something that we do.  Evangelism and learning go hand in hand.  Evangelism is where we teach others so that they come to know Christ, whether directly or through example.  However, we cannot teach unless we have learned.  If disciples learn and apostles teach, we are called to do both roles as Christians.

I call upon Thee, O Lord; make haste to me!  Give ear to my voice, when I call to Thee! Let my prayer be counted as incense before Three, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!  Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips!  Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their dainties!  Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness, but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head; for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.  When they are given over to those who shall condemn them, then they shall learn the word of the Lord is true.  As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land, so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.  But my eyes are toward Thee, O Lord God; in Thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!  Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!  Let the wicked together fall into their own nets, while I escape.  Psalm 141

In order to teach, we must learn.  In order for something to be a powerful force in our lives, we need knowledge of it.  Thus, learning is at the core of what it means to be part of a church community.

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The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0