Excerpts from a talk given to the servants of the Diocese at St. George’s church on August 24, 2000
Our Lord God said to His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you and you will be witnesses to Me in all Judea, Samaria, and all the earth.” How can I be a witness to the Lord? This is the question. You may be a witness through your own life, through preaching and teaching.
First, the servant is a holy person directing guiding others to a holy life. There is a great difference between a teacher in any school and a teacher of Sunday School. One may speak about humility and meekness; another may be humble and meek and will, himself, become the sermon. The holy person who teachers others may attract them through this own life. They see the ** is practiced in his person and the commandments of God is not heavy. This is why we always ask teachers to prepare the lesson, but to first prepare himself…so that he has an impression on his listeners.
Second, the servant is a person of experience. He knows the ways of God, the difficulties, and how to over come the difficulties. He knows the diabolic wars which may hinder a person’s spiritual life and how to overcome them.
Also, the servant should have a holy zeal and love which urges him always to bring everyone to the church and to our Lord. A person who loves God and loves people and wants all to love God with him. This is a teacher. It is written about our Lord in John 12, “that having loved His own in the world…He loved them to the end.” This is the example of our Lord as a teacher.
If you love your own disciples you can search for everyone who is absent and bring him back. You may even repeat the lesson for him or send others to search for him. We have many youth who are absent–do we love them and search for them? Do we seek after them so that they may return, or do we not care?
The real teacher–and when I say teacher I also mean the priests, deacons, and all the servants of the church–should care for everyone. This is the work of the teacher. The Didascalia says of the bishop that he should take care for the salvation of all. He cares for all to save them.
Do we care for the kids, for the youth in our church? Some youth may reach college and may become lost and stray far from the church and we don’t know if they even return. Luke 15 shows us how to accept the repentance of the lost. We should notice that a person had 100 sheep and he realized that one was lost. How can a person differentiate between 99 and 100? That means he had enough care for every one–even the single person! All teachers of Sunday School should care for every single person under his jurisdiction. You should have care and you should search for the lost to return.
If you have a lot of responsibility and no time, you should prepare a group of person who can do visitations to search for the lost. The successful priest makes many servants work with him, he does not just work by himself. You must prepare people to serve with you. The best servant makes the youth serve one another. In the Protestant church in Egypt when one youth would not come to a meeting, three or four would show up on his doorstep the next day asking about him. Why don’t we do the same? We should have some groups for visitations to ask about the absent and bring back the lost. Does everyone know which youth were at church two months ago and are not there now? When we warn you today, we save you from the judgment of our Lord in the last day.
I want to say something to you: many people are attacked by doubts in theology, in dogma, in doctrine. When they find that they cannot answer these questions and doubts with replies and answers, they leave and are lost. Do you teach in the seminary these problems that attack your youth or scholarly information? What makes our youth so brainwashed that they leave our church? We can find the answers to these theological, dogmatic, biblical, and social concerns. I ask you to please write down these concerns and let us know what is troubling our youth. Do not leave them this way! The difference between a scholar and a teacher is that a scholar has knowledge, but a teacher can present the information in an attractive way to his students.
Do not be happy with those who are coming, but take care of those not attending. The problem of the great churches is that it is full of those attending the service. This way, do not think of those who are absent. In 1964 at St. Antonios Church in Shobra, we had one servant who stood at the door of the church taking attendance. We had the largest youth meeting with 500, 600, 700 youth.
But also take care of those who come to church but stand outside. These people come and do not enter the church but stay out speaking and joking. You should take care of these people and search for everyone.
I remember at a servants’ meeting once in our church, a servant spoke very powerful words to us about visitation. At the end of this powerful talk, I commented “Even if we do all this work and bring the lost to our church, what will happen if they come and are not satisfied by the lessons and talks they hear? Then all of this work would be for nothing.” We need a teaching that satisfies, teachers that are full of the Spirit and life or else they will come for nothing.
The teachers should grow in knowledge and increase day by day. They should become deeper and more impressive. If not, it is like a small child who says to himself, “After twenty years I will be like my father.” The boy does not expect his father to grow any older. Our servants cannot expect once they enter the service to ever stop growing spiritually or else the students will also stop growing. The teacher must grow and become deeper in knowledge day by day so that he has an impression on the children in every lesson. In our church every servant used to listen to four lessons before giving one lesson. They attended a meeting for servants, for families, for youth and for adults. This way they were full. So I urge you to keep growing.
And glory be to God forever, Amen.