As a high school substitute teacher, I have had the opportunity to see how students respond to the challenges of the educational system. My observations have brought me to the conclusion that there are three basic groups of students. The first group is dedicated to pursuing excellence in academic learning. The second group is committed to staying in the average category with the least amount of academic effort. The third group is interested in just surviving until graduation. Now, I know this is an oversimplification of student groupings for there are extenuating circumstances. Mental and physical challenges, as well as social rejection, also represent a part in the student assemblage.
I find a parallel between the secular educational system and the Church. I thank God for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for those who strive for spiritual excellence every day of their life. These are the people that are not satisfied with the rate of their spiritual growth. They pursue the Lord as described by David when he said, “As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) Each day is an opportunity to learn and serve. They cannot get enough of the Word. Their prayer life occupies their consciousness. These are the people with whom I love to engage for they help me to avoid my own self-centeredness.
The middle group in the Church is those who have just enough faith to sustain them. They know enough Scripture to appease their wants, but don’t have enough knowledge to ride out the storms. A headache will keep them from church; just like staying up too late Saturday night will keep them in bed Sunday morning. If they do attend a weekly service, they usually forget the message by dinner time. They talk about Jesus whenever the conversation would not embarrass themselves or the persons with whom they are speaking. It is this group of Christians that are hindering not only themselves, but the Church itself. When Believers stop feeding their spirits, their minds will focus on the carnal things of life. There is also a fraction of that group that centers all their energy on one big weekly, no holds barred, explosion of praise and worship. They let it all out in an exercise of activities. It is, in fact, an expression of spiritual relief. Content with achieving temporary spiritual fulfillment, they leave the assembly with little thought of how to approach the challenges of the upcoming week.
The third group of Christians is simply the label wearers. They confess their Biblical belief, but their actions do not line up with their words. Their vocabulary expresses the status of the mind. Negativity, pessimism, fear, gossip, and the like display that the interior of their “temple” (I Corinthians 3:16) is in need of attention. It is through these people that the world judges the Church. There is also a splinter group of these Christians who, because of bad experiences with their church, have gone AWOL from the assembly of Believers; yet they believe the basics, but want nothing to do with the Church.
No matter which group you are part of, God loves you. For those in the first group, keep on growing and experiencing the benefits of the Kingdom. For those in the second and third groups, there is still time to graduate into the life of abundant living. For those who have been hurt by the church, Jesus offers healing and restoration.