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Activism is necessary for understanding

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I remember encouraging the pastor of our white, upscale church in West Palm Beach to send members of the congregation with me to the nearby town of Belle Glade, AIDS capital of America. “What a great place to minister,” I thought.    “They aren’t ready yet;” the pastor replied, “they…
By Seth Barnes
I remember encouraging the pastor of our white, upscale church in West Palm Beach to send members of the congregation with me to the nearby town of Belle Glade, AIDS capital of America. “What a great place to minister,” I thought. 
 
“They aren’t ready yet;” the pastor replied, “they need more teaching.”
 
Perhaps we did, but we also needed a lot more shoe leather on our faith. In retrospect, what we needed was to read and implement Philemon 1:6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding…”
 
More of us need to fake it till we make it. We don’t get to maturity tucked away in a cubicle or sitting idle in our living rooms. We grow in faith by doing stuff that at first may feel uncomfortable and hard to understand. 
 
A pedagogical question here might help: Where does understanding come from anyway? Many of our churches believe that it comes from a teaching. The logical conclusion: Because we need more and better teaching, the sermon is the center piece of the religious weekly calendar. “People need another download of information,” we think. 
 
But Paul’s letter to Philemon suggests that it comes through experience, through activity. Be active in sharing your faith and you’ll gain understanding. Of course Paul personalized this principal. As soon as he believed, he began sharing his own faith; he lived what he taught.
 
If you think about how you’ve gained understanding in your own life, you’ll probably see a combination of influences. Think of riding a bike, playing a sport, or driving a car. You received information about how to do it, and then you practiced, and then you reflected on and evaluated your effort.
 
Christianity is an activist faith. It grows when it is put into practice. This blog is of limited use – it’s like a sermon – a delivery mechanism for more information. To make it work for you, you need to put it into practice – depending on God in some fresh way.
 
He set us free so that we’d help others gain their freedom too. As we do so, we better see things from God’s perspective. We gain understanding about his kingdom and about how faith works.
 
Want to grow in faith? Want to understand more about it? Start stepping out.

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