What would you think if next Sunday, as soon as your pastor started his sermon, everyone looked down at their laps and hardly looked up again? A very boring sermon perhaps?
David Platt in his book Radical suggests a different picture: “Imagine being in Sudan. You walk into a thatched hut with a small group of Sudanese church leaders, and you sit down to teach them God’s Word. As soon as you start, you lose eye contact with all of them. No one is looking at you, and you hardly see their eyes the rest of the time. The reason is because they’re writing down every word you say. They come up to you afterward and say, ‘Teacher, we are going to take everything we have learned from God’s Word, translate it into our languages, and teach it in our tribes.’”
What makes Christians in Sudan or Mongolia or Uzbekistan or Cuba or Vietnam so intent to consume enormous quantities of Biblical knowledge? Is it merely that they have never heard it before or that they appreciate it more because of persecution? Platt offers this explanation: “They were not listening to receive but to reproduce.”
Recently I was reminded that getting in motion to become a reproducer starts with paying attention and looking for opportunities. Instead of offering prayer at the close of his sermon, my pastor instructed us to do it. That is, he asked each of us to meet with a person nearby and pray for each other. I preferred to pray with my wife and not make the effort to trouble myself with someone else’s problems.
But as I turned, the Holy Spirit directed my attention to someone behind us and down the row a bit. He was alone and no one was approaching him. I was prompted to get up, move over and start practicing what was preached. It turned out that he has some deep needs and ended our prayer time by asking for further contact and accountability. We were able to bless each other.
How would our attitudes toward church change if we looked for ways to convert what we hear into what we do? What if we constantly asked ourselves, “How can I use this to teach someone else” as we listen to the Bible lesson? This will take effort and time. But it is axiomatic that if we aim for nothing, then we will surely hit it.
An upcoming post will offer practical ideas for progressing from religious consumer to disciple reproducer. When we listen to a sermon or lesson at church with the intent of practicing it or teaching it to others, we will fulfill God’s purpose for church.