PDH – Professional Development Hours – both a blessing and a bane for engineers. Some states don’t require any at all, while others have a variety of acceptance rules that differ from state to state. As I filled out the continuing education logs for the last of my license renewals coming due at the end of the year, I found I had accumulated over 60 hours of PDH over the last 2 year renewal cycle, more than twice what any one state required. Despite the inconvenience PDH can be sometimes, I’ve learned a lot of good stuff through various seminars, conferences, webinars, and self-study courses. But as good as some of the more convenient webinars and self-study courses have been, the seminars and conferences I’ve participated in have been especially beneficial. We don’t have the time or resources (or desire, oftentimes) to be experts in every aspect of our profession, so it’s great to hear subject matter experts and be able to actually interact with them and ask that one question you’ve always wondered about. While I can learn about a new design method or innovative product from reading a trade journal or hearing one of those experts lecture about it in theory, talking to other engineers at a conference who have actually used that method or specified that product on a completed project is priceless. We better ourselves and the profession by our participation and interaction with fellow engineers. In fact, that interaction is key to the success of conferences. At one conference you may be the attendee learning something new, while at another one you may be one of the presenters teaching something new to others. Either way, interaction helps stretch us and take us out of our comfort zone enough to grow. Did going to conferences or seminars sometimes interfere with both my business and personal schedules? Yes, but I am a better engineer in the end because of making that investment.
Church is a similar investment. While there’s no commandment in the Bible that “Thou shalt go to church”, there are verses like Hebrews 10:25 that warns against “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some….” Acts 2:42-47 provides an example of early Christians regularly meeting to learn doctrine, pray, praise God, fellowship together, and share with each other. They met both in the synagogues and in fellow Christians’ homes. In fact, it’s a little misleading to even talk about “going to church”, for the Bible says that we are the church, whether we meet in a fancy building, a rented gym, our own houses, or in a cave under cover of night like Christians in some parts of the world are forced to do. So besides it being encouraged in the Bible, why should we attend “church”? Like my engineering conferences, we get the chance to learn from subject matter experts (preachers) that have invested the time in seminary learning Greek, Hebrew, Systematic Theology, Epistemology, and so on. We also can learn from other Christians in the body that may not a have a Master of Divinity degree, but still have a lifetime of powerful lessons God’s taught them that they can share.
For myself, I know that hearing different perspectives stretches my mind and challenges my preconceptions and attitude I might bring with me. Talking in small groups and classes can expose us to a variety of different readings of scriptures we think we’re familiar with, and force us to prayerfully reason through the different possible interpretations. Just like teaching a session at an engineering conference, leading a Bible study, teaching a Sunday school class, or teaching youth will definitely stretch us and push us to the next level. Our active attendance provides us a chance to meet with role models to see faith lived out in the flesh. We know we are to be holy even as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We have the pattern of great men like Paul who tell us to follow their example in pursuing God (Philippians 3:17). But we need to “see it lived out”, as John MacArthur says. One place we see that is at church, and so we don’t forsake gathering. Will we find hypocrites there? Certainly, but seek out those who model Christ faithfully, and do likewise. Will church be an inconvenience sometimes? Yes, but that’s the nature of investments of any kind. Just like a good conference gets me to look up from my little problems I’m working through, corporate (i.e. group) worship also takes the focus off of ourselves and lifts our eyes up to God. It makes us look at our priorities, and contributes to our sanctification.
Can we get a lot of these benefits from TV sermons and books and magazines, private prayer time, or Bible studies with friends? Sure, to varying degrees. But Paul tells us that we are each different parts of one body, each with a different role to fill. We can’t all be the eyes, or the hands, etc. When we do “forsake the gathering together”, we are effectively cutting ourselves off from the local body of believers, and in so doing, amputating the Body of Christ. So attend, but don’t just attend – participate, study, grow, mature, train (yourself and others), and never stop learning, for you will never exhaust the limitless library of God’s PDH program.