I was a young adult when I first attended flight school. Learning to fly consists of both in the air learning and instruction while safely on the ground. Learning to fly begins with actually experiencing the thrill of taking the controls of an airplane to make sure that this is really something that you can see yourself doing on your own. And to motivate you to say yes to the cost of the instruction. I really appreciated ground school because there was so much variety in the lessons from weather to mechanics and from law to physics. A pilot needs a well-rounded education on a variety of topics which affect an airplane and the safety of passengers that the pilot can apply in live situations. Most of the training is not needed for a beautiful day when everything is going right. The training is needed for bad days when everything goes wrong.
In my first venture into flying I was blessed to have an instructor who was about the same age as me, and fearless. Nothing seemed to rattle Jack. I remember one lesson when we were working on power stall recovery I managed to put our small t-tail trainer plane into an unstable configuration, flight-wise, and within seconds the nose broke (pointed down abruptly) and we entered a high speed spiral. Jack calmly asked me to let go of the controls, grabbed the controls on his side, hit the petal on the opposite side of our rotation and with great skill and precision, regained control of the airplane. As we leveled off over Lakes St Clair at a considerably lower altitude than where we started, Jack said in a calm voice “That was fun. Now let’s try that again.”
Jack taught me how to be a safe pilot by showing me what being a good pilot looked like through what he did, explaining to me how to do the maneuvers that make for safe flying and allowing me to make my own mistakes while in the safety of his reassuring presence. Jack’s ability to be the kind of pilot that he was teaching me to be saved my life more than once after I had my own pilot’s license and went on to fly over a thousand hours on my own, oftentimes carrying passengers with me. This is what a good teacher does.
Have you ever had to learn something that was difficult and starting out you knew that you were bound to mess it up even trying? High school chemistry class or even biology comes to mind for me. And more recently transplanting tomato plants or trying to reach a particularly high note in front of a lot of people. We have all found ourselves facing a new experience that we haven’t faced before and hoping that we can find a teacher, like Jack, who rather than criticize our attempts, he or she calmly show us, by example, a way to learn and do.
I marvel at the way that Jesus taught His disciples and how He continues to teach us. Discipleship is a combination of ground school and doing. Making mistakes and learning from them. And all the time knowing that Jesus is right next to us, ready to take the controls if we start to spin out of control and teaching us how to save lives as a result of our learning. And the results are worth it. In the process of doing what we learn we save lives including our own.
I like the comparison of flight school with teaching others about the Kingdom of God. First, Jack didn’t pick me as a student and I didn’t pick him to be my instructor. It was the “luck of the draw” or at least this is how it appears. I now realize that God had a lot to do with this seemingly chance meeting. And I haven’t stayed in touch with Jack. Discipling is oftentimes like this. Someone seems to randomly show up and we are the one who is expected to teach them about discipleship. We didn’t choose them and they didn’t choose us. It was the “divine luck of the draw” so to speak that brings us together in the same airplane.
When I attended flight school, Jack wasn’t my ground school instructor. This job went to another, more experienced person, who knew the FAR’s (Federal Aviation Recommendations), laws affecting pilots, weather, and all of the various subjects that make up a comprehensive knowledge of flying. This instructor’s goal was to prepare me with the head knowledge to both pass the flight exam and to help me learn what I needed to know to prepare for a flight and to safely pilot the airplane.
Discipleship works the same way. There are ground school courses such as Bible Study, Book Club, and small groups, just to name a few. Most times there is an experienced instructor who has lived the life of a disciple for a long time. Long enough to realize that they still have a lot to learn and to recognize that being a disciple requires lifelong learning for all of us. The world does not sit still but continues to change day after day. And we find ourselves in new circumstances with new students sometimes when we least expect it.
When a person becomes a pilot they take on the responsibility for the safety of themselves and others. Passengers need instruction too so they will know their role in safely getting to their destination. A pilot is also responsible for persons on the ground who would rather not have an airplane crash into their home or land next to them on the expressway. A pilot is a lifelong learner and teacher.
Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20 GNT
When we become a disciple we take on the responsibility of teaching others. And most of our teaching is done without being consciously aware that we are being watched. One of the last things that Jesus told His disciples are the same instructions that He gives to us. Jesus tells us that we are to teach others about the Kingdom of God. We might not be a ground instructor. Most of us teach while in the air. That is, we teach in how we live life. We show others how to be a disciple by our worship, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves and how we treat our planet.
While this may sound like a lot of pressure, this is where having the ultimate instructor comes in. Jesus never leaves our side. He is a constant companion. We teach through our actions but we have the ultimate Teacher with us always. This was what Jesus promised. That He will always be with us no matter where we travel to. Even if we fly to the other side of the planet, He is right next to us, ready to take the controls and keeping us from crashing.
It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced instructor or never stepped into a church. There is a place waiting for you in the Kingdom of God.
It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced instructor or never stepped into a church. There is a place waiting for you here at Asbury. Sooner or later we all face circumstances that causes our heart to race. We face loss, we face unpleasant change, we face adventure. Why not be prepared? Why face it alone? Eventually, we face our own death. Why face it unsure if anything happens next?
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is the most rewarding, the most joyful, the most life-changing and life-giving experience available on the planet or anywhere else. Come and join other disciples here at Asbury and learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We are all connected in ways that bind us together into a beautiful tapestry that is a community of abundant life.
Our current worship series here at Asbury is titled Multiply. Come and learn how God’s Kingdom is unfolding before our very eyes and how God multiplies our blessings. Worship is each Sunday at 10:30 am. Our Café opens at 10 and you are welcome to join us for a short ground school lesson (Bible study) at 9:30 am in the Café.