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How Do We Learn?

When I was pastoring, getting sick was disastrous…especially when it happened at the last minute and you’re speaking the next day in four services.

On one such occasion, my wife told me wisely, “Quit whining and go to the Minute Clinic at Kroger’s.”

Turned out they could do a strep test quickly, no appointments needed, and you could pick up a bottle of sauvignon blanc, brick cheese and Wheat Thins on your way out. Now this is healthcare that works.

The nurse asked me all the typical questions about any exiting body fluids and so on. My head felt like I was in a fog, so I made up stuff when she asked my medical history. She swabbed my throat, checked my blood pressure, took my temperature, listened to my lungs and my heart, looked in my mouth and said, “‘Ewwww! That’s really red,” then said it wasn’t strep: “See, only two lines instead of three on this, uh, thing.”

I told her thanks because of what I do in my job: talk a lot. She asked me what I did and I told her I was a pastor. Then she asked me what church I belonged to. I told her and she said she had heard of it. Then she asked me what I spoke about last weekend and I honestly couldn’t remember…so I said, “Uh, God.”

Okay, chalk it up to head fog, raw throat distraction or viral brain freeze, but that’s pretty embarrassing.

Anyone who regularly speaks wrestles with retention, or how people learn.

I think that’s why we would tell people that this thing that happens on the weekend is not “real church”. “Real church” happens in the framework of community and serving/wooing/healing those outside of the community.

That’s why it’s so important that churches become activistic. Any kind of “doing” connected with input is processed and integrated far better. Years ago the “Learning Pyramid” was promoted by National Training Laboratories and then discredited mostly because of sketchy percentage stats (and a dude on a crusade), but I think many educators would agree conceptually with it. Regardless, it’s interesting and from my experience, true. The short version is: people learn and retain information way, way better with “practice by doing” and “teach others/immediate use” than by listening to a lecture or reading.

That’s the reason we never wanted to be just a “come-and-see” church, but a “go-and-do” one as well. For instance, we never wanted ministry to the underresourced and marginalized to simply be a “drop-off-your-offering-for-the-poor”-type thing. We have to personally rub shoulders with the poor to understand the heart of God. Or as we’ve said many, many times: we need the poor more than they need us.

I don’t think we really understand—or integrate the message of the Kingdom—until we begin doing what the Father is doing. I have no doubt that there are too many people sitting in churches that really don’t get it, but it may be that they have done very little of what God says we’re to do, and that ranges from relationship issues (eg. forgiveness) to compassionate service to healing the sick to whatever Jesus did…and does. That’s when real learning kicks in. Or as Jesus put it,

“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills.” MATTHEW 7:21 THE MESSAGE

That verse alone should have the capacity to freak us out, but I’m not so sure that’s the intention. It could be that Jesus was way ahead of the National Training Laboratories folks: we learn best by doing and showing others how to do it.

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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