George A. Bowers Sr.: Christians can be extension agents
In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Morrill Act, which granted thousands of acres in every state for the research and study of agriculture, engineering, and military tactics. Many of the large popular state schools today have grown from these seeds, including Texas A & M, Rutgers, Cornell, Alabama, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Virginia State and of course, the best of all, Virginia Tech.
As a result of this legislation and the establishment of these institutions, many innovative discoveries were, and continue to be made in both the fields of agriculture and engineering as well as in many other disciplines. Along the way, however, some noticed that the newly discovered methods and ideas were not being implemented by the farmers who did not have access to current research.
Because of this, Congress passed the Smith Lever Act in 1914, which started the Cooperative Extension Service to extend the innovations and discoveries of these universities out into the rural areas so that they could actually benefit the farmers and ranchers. Extension agents were hired to gather information from the universities and deliver it to producers in their local areas. In addition, instead of these colleges competing against each other and guarding their research as hidden secrets, they were to cooperate and share their findings to achieve the maximum good.
Over the years, America’s land grant universities, coupled with the Cooperative Extension Service, have helped countless farmers and producers. They have also benefited homemakers and families after the initial program was expanded to include nutrition and home economics. And it has grown to offer opportunities for youth through a variety of 4-H programs. The success of this model has been copied around the world and many other countries today also benefit from the extension of research and discovery so scientific advancements can be practically applied.
The parallels for Christianity are obvious and clear. As we grow and learn in our faith, we are not to merely increase our mental knowledge, but we are to apply it to our lives through daily practice. As God reveals his will to us through his holy word and his holy spirit, we must incorporate his teachings into our lives. Otherwise, they become useless trivia beneficial only for theoretical purposes.
In addition, instead of just tanking up at church each Sunday, we are each commissioned to be Jesus’ extension agents to take his love, mercy, and grace into the field and share it with others who sorely need it. Truth and salvation do no good just sitting in a church library or lying dormant on a page. Jesus instructed his followers to extend his light into the dark world. And just like the universities, there is no need for believers to compete against each other, but rather cooperate with other Christians to advance his kingdom for the maximum good.
This Sunday, take advantage of the opportunity to gain insight and inspiration from the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge by worshiping him with other believers, and then take seriously Jesus’ call to extend what you receive so that others can benefit as well. Blessings, George
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.