God’s timing is always perfect and often brings about unexpected results. As I wrote in Part 1, I believe that community is best experienced at Winebrenner Theological Seminary when we focus upon being a community of learners. When we posted that article I was unaware that I would sit in a worship celebration over the weekend and hear a message about, of all topics, community. So, I’ll be weaving a few thoughts shared by Lead Pastor Eric Ferguson into my continuation of the theme started in Part 1.
In this week’s post, I’m grounding this conversation in Scripture by focusing upon one unique community of learners: the core disciples who followed Jesus.
Jesus himself provides a test and a proof of true discipleship when he says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men (and women) will know that you are my disciples, if you love one other” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
It seems simplistic to think that in order to love one another that we must be around others. To paraphrase, when we meet in an on-campus classroom, we must love one another. When we meet online, we must love one another. When we gather students in Haiti or at the Marion Correctional Institution, we must love one another. When we are teaching those outside of our preferred denomination, we must love one another, even when we hold divergent polities and theologies. Whether we teach those without a high school diploma or someone who has completed a Ph.D., we must love one another.
Academic pursuits within a Christian context were never intended to be carried out alone. As a small portion of God’s larger kingdom, how we teach and interact with each other must reflect His kingdom purposes.
God created people for people and we can’t follow God apart from others. Winebrenner’s classroom and workplace environments must strive to be an expression of Jesus’ command. In addition to these opportunities to love like Jesus and share life together, a community of learners has the opportunity to observe how God is moving in their midst (e.g., Acts 2:42-47). The coursework of a seminary lends itself to listening to others’ joys and concerns while also praying for their specific needs.
Finally, Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another” (NIV).
Prioritizing education that creates and protects various communities of learners allows us to hold strong to our Christian faith. It allows us to move beyond simple civility and actually demonstrate our love for one another.
Dr. Brent Sleasman
Image of the final supper from Pixabay accessed via Adobe Spark.