Bishop's Message

Constant Practice

Nov 2013    

The mature is described as “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish between good and evil”.

Hebrews 5:14, (ESV)

Presently, there is a trendy fascination with training. Many different kinds of courses, seminars, degree programmes and weekend workshops are available for those seeking them. The growth of this industry is driven by the pursuit of paper qualifications that will hopefully enhance promotion prospects.

Paper qualification does not necessarily mean that a person can do the job well in the discipline for which they earned a diploma or degree. Training simply provided that person with sufficient information that he could use to respond to exam questions. Experience has not been gained though – this is possible only through applying the theory learnt, in real-life and challenging situations. That will be the true test of whether a person is qualified in practice.

The church in Singapore is also affected with a similar malady. There is a wide selection of programmes from children to adult ministry, and in various other fields. I will not mention them by name so as not to be misunderstood that I think they are not of any use. The issue is not with what is being offered; many of them have come to us through extensive and intensive development of their curriculum, training methods and trainers.

The question is more about what happens to those who have received the training.

The challenge is translating theory into practice and producing the desired results.

James 1:22 is quite clear that it is not simply about hearing the word, but more importantly, the doing.

Interestingly, he said that those who “only hear but not do” are deceiving themselves. After attending an intensive course, we might falsely conclude that we are truly qualified.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-25, that it is the person who “hears and does” His words that will be like the house still standing even after a typhoon has hit the neighbourhood. There is a deepening and strengthening of our spiritual foundation that happens only after we have put into practice what we have learned from the Bible.

Hebrews 5:11 warns us of being dull of hearing (ESV). This is another step down the slippery slope of not doing anything about what we have learned. We end up not even bothering to listen, because we might think that we already know. When in this state, we are like children still dependent on milk, not solid food.

The mature is described as “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish between good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14, ESV).

Attending the course is only the beginning. It is the follow-up that makes all the difference. Post-training is when we can really know which part of what we have learned really works, in which situation it works better than others, and how we can tweak it in order to get the best results. This journey will be more productive if we have someone who has gone through it before many times walking alongside us – a mentor.

So the next time you are assessing what kind of nurture programme to adopt, have the end in view: What is its follow-up like? Is it just another book to study? Or is there a systematic way in which you are putting into practice what the course has taught you?

Finally, the test of effective training is whether you can train others. Let us not mistake standing before a class, giving a lecture, as training. That is nothing more than a lecture. Even having practical exercises in class is not complete training; exercises are what we do in preparation for the real experience.

Training others involves letting them out in the “field”, putting into practice what they have learned from you. They should come back to discuss with you what they have applied that did not work, or did not work well enough to produce the desired results. You would guide them to get the best outcome.

All these presuppose that you have walked that same road before, and have had years of experience seeing what you learned applied practically in various circumstances and seasons of your life.

Picture by tashatuvango/Bigstock.com

Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup has been a Methodist pastor for 28 years, during which he was also President of Trinity Annual Conference from 2005 to 2012 before he was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore for the quadrennium till 2016.

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