"Hillel used to say: He who aggrandizes his name, loses his name. He who does not increase in knowledge, decreases it. He who learns not, forfeits his life. He who makes unworthy use of the crown (of the Torah) shall pass away."
I recently read an article about the decline of the church on our days. It stated that 4000 churches are closing their doors every year. In another study 6 out of 10 young people will leave the church by the age of 15. I know many people ask and wonder why this is happening. Most of the responses come back stating that to fix this issue we need to "win more souls to the Kingdom". Other strategies focus their efforts on church growth principles of invitation style churches. They provide facilities that are business-like, warm, welcoming and esthetically appealing. They offer music like you hear on the radio, inspirational messages that leave you feeling good about yourself and a place to leave your kids for someone else to teach them. Although arguments can be made, these churches usually do a great job of attracting people and filling seats. This has been the most popular style of church since the mid 1990's which was perfected by Willow Creek in Chicago and Saddleback in California. But over the past 20 years, after learning how these two churches have inspired a country to change its style of church to become more attractive, why are so many churches closing every year? Why are so many people still walking away from God? Why are 6 out of 10 children leaving the church never to return?
Maybe because this style of church is more cultural than it is Biblical. Maybe leaders have missed the point that instead of making disciples, converts were the bigger priority. And just maybe this is the cause of the decay of the country over the past 20 plus years. Hence, we even bring up the fact that four years ago, Bill Hybels. Sr. pastor of Willow Creek came out and said in an interview that the model he helped create and perfect failed at making disciples. Yet nobody seemed to care what Bill had to say. The machine kept going and decay continues to deteriorate our country and this world.
So what is the answer? If we actually listen to Hillel and study the words of God, things become a little more clear. As we learned last week, this is what Yeshua was commissioning us to do-to raise up many Talmidim. Talmidim comes from the root word lamad, which means to study. And what are we to study? We are to study all of God's word and then we are to apply it to our lives. This was the most important form of worship in the days of Yeshua; to study and apply God's word in daily living. Imagine what would happen if parents studied God's word and applied it to their families. Imagine what would happen if kids actually saw demonstrated for them what it truly meant to live out the words of God. Imagine what would happen if parents actually took on the role prescribed for them in the Torah to teach their children the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
If we learn from the Rabbis, Yeshua, Paul, Peter, Hillel, Gamaliel, etc., we would see that learning how to follow God isn't something we do once a week. Learning the scriptures takes time, energy and effort.
"If he learns Torah and does not go over it again and again, he is like a man who saws without reaping" (Sanh. 99a) "One who repeats his lesson a hundred times is not like him who repeats it a hundred and one times" (Chag. 9b).
Learning always begins with questions. Do you questions things? Do you ask the tough questions? Do you ask the tough questions of yourself? In the first century, the followers of the Messiah were in the thousands and they were all "zealous for the Torah" (Acts 21:20). It was in these days that whole communities were being transformed. Whole cities like Ephesus, Thessalonica, Rome and elsewhere were learning about the Hebrew Messiah Yeshua from the words of Torah.
My prayer is that St. bernard will be one of those places that the Messiah Yeshua and His Kingdom break into this place and Shalom is brought back to the broken and His people are "zealous for the Torah".