Those who can, do..

I’m sure you’re all (note assumption of a readership here) familiar with the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” or one of its variants “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t teach, teach gym/lecture/counsel (delete or add as appropriate)”.

For whatever reason, this phrase popped into my head earlier today and I immediately made a connection to something that happened at my last CofS assessment conference. It was a comment about how I appeared to equate my faith with being busy doing ‘God-stuff’. The reason I linked the two is that, in a sense, the adage holds a degree of ‘truth’ when I consider it in the light of the criticism of my faith life. I’m not one of these ‘in-your-face’ Christians who walks around festooned with crosses and takes every opportunity to tell you how much Jesus has changed their life (actually, I’m not sure I know anyone like that anyway, so maybe it’s not the best comparison). On a daily basis I go about life just like any other bloke. I’m not overtly religious; I don’t speak damnation and judgement over injustice or even petty unethical behaviour; I don’t praise God loudly when something works out in a good way; I have arguments with my family; I throw tantrums when something really winds me up; I’ve downloaded music from the web to listen to without paying for it.

Where my faith becomes more obvious is if someone asks about theology or religion or church or any one of a number of areas where I put my faith to ‘work’. So, in one sense I fit the adage – I’m not very good at ‘doing’ and so I ‘teach’. And, in a sense, the criticism of the assessment report is justified.

But, it’s also very wrong. My faith comes to the fore in my busyness – it’s through my busyness that I live out my faith. When I’m not ‘doing’, that doesn’t mean I have no faith. It simply means that the outlets for my faith are not there. And that’s simply who I am and why, to an extent, I like to keep busy. I like working out my faith because that’s where I find satisfaction. It’s part of the reason I feel called to ministry – it’s a life of ‘doing’. And it’s also why I do feel a slight sense of disconnection from God when I’m not busy – because I know it’s not what I’m called to. I’d never be a good witness left to sit in a pew Sunday by Sunday. My natural reticence would mean that, in a secular job, I simply couldn’t be the sort of person who could witness effectively.

So that’s why I don’t ‘do’ and why I ‘teach’. Not sure what would happen if I had to consider the third option – maybe I’m there already.

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5 responses to “Those who can, do..”

  1. Makes complete sense to me as someone who struggles hugely when I’m not ‘doing’. For me though, the challenge is in not being called to ministry – what do I ‘do’ instead? I’m not saying that ministry would have been an easy option (having walked alongside Bryan through the selection school/placements etc etc I have no desire to experience it firsthand myself and I don’t feel called to ordained ministry just in case you’re wondering!) but in many ways I sometimes wonder if it would have presented less of a challenge than not being a minister does?

  2. Thanks Pauline.
    I’m glad you made sense of it. I guess I’m exploring the possibilities of my calling. Like you, I’m not sure what it would be if, in my case, it wasn’t ordained ministry. I simply see no other avenue for my ‘doing’. But I share your sense of frustration because, in my case, I’m not there yet. And I’m not sure where it would leave me if the church said no a second time. Well, not strictly true. I believe I’ve followed this path for a purpose and even if it doesn’t end in ordained ministry, I’ll find another outlet. But it’s simply not clear what that might be. Which, to me, continues to be an affirmation of a call to ministry. I see it, my friends see it, I just have to pray that 121 see it (or more pertinently, I can show it to them).

  3. I have to say that your assessment comments might be the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard. Faith is about action. What’s the point of believing in a God who calls us to discipleship and then sitting around on your backside contemplating how much faith you have?

    I disagree completely that you couldn’t witness in an ordinary job. People don’t want their colleagues preaching at them but they do notice when you are different. They notice how you live your life. Keep doing John. Be careful not to over ‘do’ but keep doing, because we are called to journey with Christ, not to observe from afar. And if the Church of Scotland can’t see that then there is less hope that I thought!

  4. sounds like a faith v works reworking to me. ‘Do’-ing and ‘be’-ing seem to be here too.
    Teachers ‘do’ like other mortals. But, unlike other mortals, teachers are examples, making the ‘do’ing both public and criticisable.
    The new selection process is probably an improvement on what went before. At least with this system you get a chance to try before you buy.
    A bit of self-relection is a good thing, but be wary of navel gazing, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

  5. Not sure I’d categorise it as faith v works as such. I’m happy with faith being just that. I think I have a slightly Lutheran outlook though in that my faith will lead me to do works – and I feel that as a ‘pressure’ (not in the sense of stress, rather in the sense of called/led/whatever). I’ll need to think some more about the ‘do’-ing and ‘be’-ing. I wonder if there is the whole sense of self-identity thing in there to a degree.
    I wasn’t really navel-gazing. I had been reading my old report and was reflecting on how I might now answer some of the questions that came up then. I think that this placement has provided a lot of the answers, or, at the very least, has helped bring them into sharper focus. Now I just need to put them across effectively.

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