“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” – Colossians 1:9b-11
Professor Jerry Uelsmann, attempted an experiment at with his Beginning Photography class at the University of Florida. He divided his photography students into two groups. One group was designated the “quantity” group. The quantity group would be graded on the amount of work they produced. If they took 100 photos by the final day of class they would receive an “A” with fewer photos produced receiving a lesser grade. Keep in mind this experiment took place before the everyday use of digital photography and darkrooms were still needed to process film.
The other group was dubbed the “quality” group. They would be graded solely on the excellence of their work. The quality group needed to only produce one photo for the class. Their entire grade would be based on the quality of that one image.
At the end of the semester, Professor Uelsmann discovered that all the best photos came from the quantity group. Professor Uelsmann surmised that during the semester, the quantity group was busy taking photos. They were experimenting with lighting, experimenting with new techniques in the darkroom, making mistakes and learning from them. The active process of creating photos allowed them to refine their skills. However, Professor Uelsmann believed that the quality group theorized and speculated about perfection. The did not invest the same level of effort in experimentation because they did not need to. In the end their photos reveal unverified theories that made for mediocre photos.
The lesson Professor Uelsmann and many others have drawn from this that it’s best to just jump in and not be paralyzed by the idea of perfection. If we wait for the perfect moment to try something we may never actually start. I hear a similar note in the first chapter of Colossians.
Paul lists his prayer for the Colossian church and he begins with “bearing fruit in every good work.” From there he goes to “growing in the knowledge of God” and “being strengthened” and receiving “endurance and patience.” Often we implement this list the other way. Our clergy development model seeks to first give clergy all the “knowledge” they might need before sending them out to “bear fruit in every good work.” It is easy to believe that we need certain traits or characteristics before we engage in good work. We may put off beginning a new ministry until the conditions are right or choose to wait until we feel like we are fully prepared. But this Colossian scripture seems to say that the opposite is true.
We need to jump in. Through the process of serving we will grow in the knowledge of God. We can develop endurance and patience on the job. When God calls us to something, God has already prepared us for the task. We have the church to support us, the Holy Spirit to enliven us, and the risen Christ to guide us. We might not get it right the first time but thankfully we celebrate a forgiving and redeeming God. Let’s not wait for everything to be perfect before we take up the calling of our good God.