“Stuck in the Fifth Grade” by Paul Greer


Note: Paul Greer is our Spiritual Life and Vital Congregations Coordinator on the Lynhburg District. Every week, he writes a meditation to share with our pastors as they prepare for worship on Sunday morning. When I received this one, I thought it needed to be shared with a wider audience. I encourage you to read and pray about what it means to be “Stuck in the Fifth Grade.”


Tom Albin, director of The Upper Room ministries, commented last Saturday during his address to the Bishop’s prayer convocation that he thought the Christian Church in North America was stuck in the fifth grade.  He went on to describe what he meant.  Fifth graders are at the top of their school, getting ready to move on to middle school.  There is a feeling of knowing all there is to know.  They love field trips.  They want to be entertained and get bored easily.


Now, Tom’s observation is a generalization, but when I look at my grandson, I see a lot of what he means.  When I look at the church, I see all too clearly what he means.  The Christian church today is not growing, numerically or spiritually.  If we do not grow spiritually, there will not be growth numerically, only decline.  As a body, we do want to be entertained, and we are easily bored.


We find Paul writing to the Corinthian congregation taking them to task for still eating baby food.  In Hebrews we find the writer saying much the same thing, adding that God’s expectation is for us to be growing and as we grow to teach others what we have learned.


As pastors, we receive these words with a two-fold meaning.  First, and most important, they speak to us as they do to every other member of the body of Christ.  Are we growing in our faith?  Or, are we stuck someplace along the way?  The second meaning for us as pastors is are we leading our congregations on a path of growth?  Through our growth, are we pointing them forward along the way?


I fear, if Tom Albin is correct with his observation, that we pastors are as guilty as anyone in this matter.  If we are not growing ourselves, then it is very hard for our congregations to grow.


My prayer for you this day is that you will see the path God would have you travel on your journey of faith, a journey that takes us ever closer to that image of Christ that we were created to be.


Always, to God be the glory!  Paul Greer