“…that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:17)
Every manager knows that his or her main job is to be sure his employees have the tools and training they need to do their jobs. The manager is there in a supporting role, while the line workers are the ones who are day to day doing the work that produces and goods and services that enable the company to fulfill its mission. And for St Paul, the Scriptures are the one and only “employee training course.” Any church worker whose life is shaped by the Scriptures—learned in the context of the community’s life and teaching—is well equipped “for every good work.”
In this passage the “work” that St Paul has in mind is preaching: “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). Words can be hugely effective, but there are times when even the best and most inspired words fall flat. As Saint Paul himself acknowledges, there will be times when the hearers will not endure sound teaching.
What is the teacher to do? A good teacher is never satisfied that the lesson was delivered, but looks to see if the lesson was received, learned and absorbed. We shouldn’t be too hard on the hearers of today, bombarded as they (we) are with claims from everywhere. Our hearers’ skepticism just means we will have to pay more attention to the quality of our Christian life. These days, our preaching will most likely first have to be the witness of our life if we are to rekindle interest in our words among people who have grown tired of religious self-promotion.
I was back at work yesterday after being out with flu from last Wednesday. There was a lot of catching up to do and I spent most of the day in the “Alaska Room” with Metropolitan Tikhon—joined from time to time by Father Eric Tosi—going over issues facing us in the coming days and weeks. Max now has a perch in the office to look out the window or sleep, though he mostly sits by His Beatitude’s side or occasionally wanders on his own down the hallway exploring offices.
We talked about various clergy misconduct cases that will be coming before the Holy Synod. Progress on sensitive episcopal matters. The Metropolitan Council meeting at the end of February (His Beatitude’s first as Chair) and how that might be effectively and efficiently organized. Budget. The OCA’s relationships with sister churches. Legal issues. The newly drafted Policies, Standards and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (the PSP’s for short) which are to be reviewed by the General Counsel, Legal Committee, specialists in canon law and the Holy Synod before dissemination.
All of this sounds fairly tedious, but it’s the nuts and bolts of background administration that keeps the Church healthy and doing its main work at every level. As basic administrative good order returns to the OCA we will be able to focus our attention on the really pressing mission question that keeps me and many of us awake at night. With a vision so compelling and a continent so huge, why are we so small? What do we need to do to retool ourselves, our parishes, our clergy, our seminaries to bring the Orthodox Christian Gospel more effectively to North America?