A church body must recognize what sustains it. Otherwise, all its energies will be directed toward trying to survive. Of course, we must assume that the beliefs associated with a particular church were partly responsible for bringing those attending to the church. However, classes provide members with the opportunity to explore and understand their faith. This helps to build a strong foundation for the members and, in turn, for the church body. Education also contributes to maintaining a clear vision of the purpose of the church, keeping it vibrant.
Education is about stimulating an open and inquiring mind. However, knowing a few things, like the Five Unity Principles, will not feed the spiritual needs of the members. The church must actively offer practices for delving into the philosophy, discussing the beliefs, and encouraging actual application of those beliefs in members' individual lives and in the practices of the church.
These practices are important because knowledge alone has no value. You can gather knowledge until you are overwhelmed by it, and it remains useless unless you apply it in your life, both your inner and outer lives. Application is the most difficult part of spiritual growth and is the basis for calling this process "the hard work of change."
Engagement in the community is how you walk the walk. It is how you show your trust in the spiritual principles you have been embracing through education. You cannot ask "What's in it for me?" That is operating from a place of lack and distrust of your faith. Of course, no one is saying that you should commit funds irresponsibly. However, there are many ways to engage without it costing anything except your willingness to be present and help — to walk the walk.
Consider the basic elements for engagement:
• Focusing on SERVICE rather than being focused on self-preservation
• Stepping outside your comfort zone and inviting others to church events or services
• Focusing on using today's technology to reach the community
• Working to create relationship opportunities through tailoring services to resonate with different groups in the church and community, providing a feeling of belonging
• Offering classes on life events, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, grief, etc., giving people an opportunity to learn how the spiritual principles can play a healthy role during this transitional time.
So, as a church, let's go ahead and ask that question "what's in it for you?" Growth and prosperity, and isn't this what we also seek for ourselves and the world? Why bother to come together as a church unless you understand the purpose for coming together in His name, His nature?
Educate and engage! They work hand in hand because the more you participate in one, the more you want to participate in the other.
Let's close with words from people who understood education as well as service:
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - William Butler Yeats
"The great aim of education is not knowledge but action". - Herbert Spencer
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." - Albert Schweitzer
"Love cannot remain by itself — it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service." - Mother Teresa