My dad and I recently traveled to the Philippines to attend a conference where several of his students from Bible College were now serving as pastors and denominational leaders. Everywhere we went, they told stories of “Pastor John” and his radio quartet, choir, music practice.
Dad didn’t go to the Philippines to teach music and direct choirs. He went to teach the Bible and direct a College.
In frustration one night he asked the question that I could tell had been causing him a lot of anguish: “Why don’t they remember my Bible teaching?” (The reverse was implied: “Why is it that all I hear is ‘We remember the music’?”)
What is remembered says a lot about two things:
1. The effectiveness of what was presented, and
2. The response of the person to what was presented.
Perhaps what dad taught in Theology 101 wasn’t as memorable. This could be the boredom factor of having to go through a systematic study that would, at times, seem tedious and sleep-inducing (Been there; done that.) It could also be a comparative thing: compared to the joy and excitement of singing, traveling around to visit churches and performing on the radio, sitting on a hard wooden seat listening to the 26 reasons why we aren’t Arminian just doesn’t cut it.
Or it could be that the students who were enrolled in the College at the time were far more passionate about and felt connected in singing together than they were about studying Soteriology and proof-texting John Calvin’s 5 Points?
We could look at this example and draw the conclusion that his students should have been more serious about their Bible study and ministerial training and that this should have driven them to enjoy learning and applying themselves to their studies.
But that would be about as fair as expecting the congregation on any given Sunday to leave reciting the main points of the pastor’s sermon rather than singing the memorable chorus of that final song. We are naturally wired to remember things that appeal to all our senses; our minds naturally prioritise that in which we are actively engaged above that which just goes into our ears.
Dad shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He did a great job of teaching, I’m sure. Otherwise the vast majority of his students would not be in the ministry today. I’m sure the essence of their vocation has “Pastor John” written all over it; the music is simply the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down.
(And, in keeping with this theme, the ending pointed question of this post is, “And who doesn’t like sugar?” not “And how bad was that medicine!”)