Back in the olden days, I did fairly well at school (in spite of avoiding my homework as often as possible). I valued making good grades. I set high standards for myself and tried to keep them, though high school and beyond. In addition to grades on individual assignments, I received a report card at the end of every term. My understanding of grades is that teachers used them to tell me how well I was learning in any particular subject.
Church is like school in that it is a learning environment, but unlike school in that there are no grades. Most of us are happy that there are no tests, papers and grades at church. We read the Bible and see that Christianity is about grace, not grades, so we know it is an enterprise for all of us, not just those who are great at school stuff.
But does the learning we do in church matter?
Math was one of my favorite subjects in school. I did well in math. Beyond a general sense of numeracy today, I don’t use much more of my math learning than the basic operations (except when helping children study their Algebra & Geometry). If I were an engineer, my learning of math would have mattered in a way it doesn’t in my current context. As one who drives cars over bridges and occasionally flies in an airplane, I’m happy that the engineers who create these objects and systems did well at math. I’m glad that there was some sort of accountability process in place to assess their learning and give them feedback. I’m glad they have enough skill and confidence in their skill to make these things happen.
While having no tests or grades in church we may have lots of grace, but we lose out on the blessings of accountability and feedback on how we’re doing. I’m convinced that what we do here matters, not just for ourselves, but for others. Pretending for a moment that accountability for ordinary Christians might be a good thing, here are a few questions to consider:
- Have you learned enough about prayer to pray in confidence, whether for your needs or the needs of others?
- Have you developed a facility with the Bible that allows you to interact with it, learn from it, and hear God speak through it?
- Have you grown secure enough in your own relationship with Christ that you can (a) share Jesus with those around you, and (b) bear graciously those around you who act less mature?
If we could learn to consider questions like these, I think it would make us stronger Christians and a stronger church. I pray that your love for Christ compels you to cooperate with Him as he completes the work he has begun in you.