Education and Evangelization

From Rev. Eric Carswell, Head Pastor
June 4, 2019

There is a close relationship between what makes for effective education and what makes for effective evangelization. In both, the Lord makes use of what we can do and say to teach and lead young children and teens to better lives, and what we do and say also helps young people and adults who are new to the Church.
Anyone who visits one of Bryn Athyn Church School’s classrooms will notice how much education involves the children’s hearts as well as their minds. You will notice how much the relationship between the student and the teacher affects the student’s learning. This is also true of evangelization. While some adults can be primarily attracted by the intellectual doctrine of the New Church, far more will need to see these ideas with a context of new friends and a sense of community within the congregation. Hearing or reading the teachings for the New Church are a key foundation for the Lord to guide someone toward a better life and people often benefit from seeing another person trying to live according to these teachings.
The Lord teaches us that “All instruction is simply the opening of a way.” (Arcana Coelestia 1495:2) It is an opening of the way for the Lord’s love and wisdom to flow into our lives. Explaining this idea, the passage states:

Order consists in heavenly qualities flowing into the spiritual ones and adapting this to be of service to itself; the spiritual in the same way flowing into the rational and adapting this to itself; the rational in the same way into factual knowledge and adapting this to itself. But when a person is receiving instruction during earliest childhood, the same order in fact exists, but it appears to be otherwise; that is to say, the person appears to progress from facts to rational things, from these to spiritual, and so at length to heavenly ones. (Arcana Coelestia 1495:2).

A school would be foolish if it only concentrated on the facts and concepts conveyed in the curriculum taught. It needs to consider the qualities of the classroom, the nature and skills of the teacher, and the patterns of interaction among the students. So too a congregation cannot just concentrate on ideas to be conveyed. We need to consider how welcoming and suitable our buildings are for a new person who arrives for worship. We want to think about how what we want to say is conveyed and how music, for example, can tremendously enrich the effect of a service. We want to be aware of how eye contact, welcoming smiles, and people who come up to a new person and have a conversation with them affects the person’s inclination to come again and learn more.

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