How do you get a person to a place where they want to learn?
I remember taking a class in high school on world history. I was looking for an elective type of class and I enjoy the stories of history. I don’t remember dates well, but the stories behind the information is what makes me enjoy history. Our history teacher was not known to be a very gentle spirit. In fact he was rather gruff, stated the information, and if you didn’t retain it, well, that was your fault. I remember even having a run in with him as he chastised the class for doing poorly on a test that he thought we should have done well on.
The entire class did poorly.
There was some sort of prompting along the lines of, “What do you have to say for yourselves?” The quiet teenager that I was, I raised my hand.
“You know, you don’t really inspire me to learn more about history. I want to be inspired to learn.”
What followed, I now realize, was a conversation on responsibility and duty versus joy and fulfillment. My teacher responded that his job was not to inspire me but to present information. My rebuttal was something along the lines of asking if he enjoyed history. He responded, “It doesn’t matter if I enjoy it, it matters if you retain the information I give you.”
I didn’t push it much further than that. I found out later that this teacher enjoyed my company about as much as much as oil enjoys the presence of water.
I was a terrible student in high school and only did well in one class that wasn’t a cake class. My basic classes like English/Grammar, Math, etc were horrible. I was relieved to see a “C” on reports. I did have one teacher in my Biology class that seemed to get me. He inspired me to care about what we were learning, understood that I didn’t learn as the status quo, and in that class I had a solid “B”.
I keep these two in my mind as I work on, ironically, being a sort of teacher myself. In matters of faith we, who are believers, are called to make disciples or “learners”.
So how does one do that?
Well, I can tell you that if our concept of attracting “learners” is merely to present information, we will fail. If our attitude about our faith fits that of the History teacher, I can tell you that most people (like me) are going to react similarly and ask, “Why would I want to learn about something that you aren’t passionate about? Sure you know the information, but how does that inspire me to want to know the information?”
I think the western church may unintentionally have fallen into this trap. It isn’t that this group is mean, nasty, and snide. It is that they don’t look much different than anyone else and when they try to give their point of view, they look rather silly trying to “teach” others to live what they aren’t passionate about themselves.
On the other side of things, as my Biology teacher taught, he was passionate and excited about what he taught. If he saw someone struggling (like me) he would find ways to incorporate me into what he was passionate about. His fervor for what he taught made me want to learn. He didn’t force me to learn, in fact there were others that did not respond well to his style of teaching…but they didn’t respond to any teaching. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn, it was that I wasn’t inspired to due to numerous things happening in the background of life.
The point is, as believers, are we inspired? Are we living a life of passion and from that life of passion, incorporating others to join in with us? I am not asking you to go all Ned Flanders, please don’t misread what I am trying to say. We will definitely have tough times in life and hove down seasons, but even in our darkest times we can reveal our passion by relying on Christ.
The passion in our lives is the inspiration to the next person we are called to teach or disciple.
Don’t let your walk become duty or forced, rather, let it be your joy. Don’t let the enemy steal that joy, it is our strength. Otherwise, the students that are watching us may learn nothing of the love that God has for them. We must be passionate students teaching others to be passionate students as well.
That is the great calling of the great commission!
Inspiration is a calling!