Let all teach with boldness
April 10, 2021
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. —Acts 4:13
There’s a lot to read into the description of Peter and John. The authorities seem surprised that “uneducated” people should be able to teach so effectively. It’s remarkable to the powerful people that “ordinary” people can be so bold, so effective.
In the last few years, I’ve been thinking about how we raise up leaders in the church. Ordained leaders are sent off to graduate school or to a substantial local formation program, but that’s almost always in addition to a full college education. This kind of learning is costly, both in time and money.
Many lay leaders are expected to engage in extensive learning programs such as Education for Ministry. In most Episcopal congregations, the leaders are nearly all college educated. Our congregations tend to skew toward the middle class and wealthy.
At least in the Episcopal Church, we don’t end up with many leaders who could be called “uneducated and ordinary.” Now, as a well-educated person, I certainly have nothing against education! And I am glad we welcome people of economic means into our churches.
I also know there are exceptions. Some leaders with diverse backgrounds have been celebrated in the church, and some congregations are more welcoming than others of the uneducated and ordinary people who seek to know Jesus. But all the data suggest that we have work to do for the body of Christ to match the diversity of society.
I’m left wondering if our church would be richer for celebrating the leadership gifts of “uneducated and ordinary” people. After all, wisdom is rarely correlated with educational attainment. Some of the best teachers of the Gospel I’ve known are people whose knowledge came from studying the scriptures and listening to sermons, not from seminars and graduate-level courses.
This is not a zero-sum world. We could still savor the learning that comes from a corps of clergy with graduate degrees while also savoring the teaching of those of different educational backgrounds. We could still welcome the wealthy while also making space for the poor. It shouldn’t be remarkable among the followers of Jesus that “uneducated and ordinary” would teach with boldness. I hope to see the church more open to a variety of gifts and backgrounds one day.
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash.
Well said! I am college-educated (Well, a BA. In my circles I feel like I should apologize for not having at least a Masters, if not a PhD.) and know I am some what of an “elitist” and your reminder was good for me. Keep reminding us. My desire is that I learn to see the God spark in everyone. Thank you.
“We have work to do for the body of Christ to match the diversity of our society”.
This is a serious challenge. If we look at our church community and see that it does not reflect the diversity of our society we need to ask ourselves why this is so. What can we do about it?
Food for thought……
I am so enjoying your posts. They have been educational, thought provoking, and interesting. I look forward to reading them as part of my daily devotional time.
Her name was Ida Lee Bradley. She was old, blind, African American and lived in public housing.
She called for transportation assistance to get to Church, visit her friends in Nursing Homes, go to concerts and any other place she needed to go. She told me about how her mother left her with relatives when Ida was young. As the train was leaving, Ida looked heavenward and told God that it was him and her now getting by in the world. The blindness came late in life and the folks at the Lighthouse for the Blind taught Ida tricks to get by including the folding of her currency. She taught me about being a Christian through her faith. She never felt sorry for herself and I’m grateful to have known her.
As an EfM graduate and current mentor, I feel especially connected to this meditation. Before I took EfM, I felt like I belonged in the Episcopal Church, but EfM gave me confidence that I was really part of the church. The conscious motivation was that my great-grandfather had graduated from the University of the South, so I believed I would learn more about him who was very influential to my father. I am shocked that I have managed to mentor the group I am mentoring since September 2017. It was the mentor training that has helped me understand what I believe particularly about my faith and I am grateful for that.