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Thought for the Day - Leslie Francis

Christian Theologian, Rev. Prof. Leslie Francis from the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR), reflects on the teaching 'Go and observe the sower', as well as the Covid-19 and Church-21 survey.



Jesus said, ‘Go and observe the sower’

One of Jesus’ best known pieces of teaching begins with the invitation to observe the sower, and to map carefully the relationship between where the seed falls and its life chances. Seed cast onto the path becomes food for the birds. Seed cast on stony ground lacks moisture. Seed cast among thistles gets choked. Seed cast on the right soil yields a harvest. Yet even here there is variability in the yield, ranging from thirtyfold to a hundredfold.

It is this piece of Jesus’ teaching that inspires me as a Christian theologian. Theology is not about rarefied speculation, but about close observation of how things work in God’s world. Theologians may have their heads in the heavens, but their feet need to be firmly on the ground.

It is also this piece of Jesus’ teaching that inspires me as a social scientist. Social sciences are not the enemy of theology, but the intellectual companion alongside theology. As a social scientist I learn to apply qualitative research methodologies with greater rigour, to observe better the sower at work. As a social scientist I learn to apply quantitative research methodologies with sharper sophistication, to measure and to judge better the significance of variability within the yield.

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus’ teaching, I am able to fuse my work as Christian theologian and my work as social scientist within the academic field characterised as empirical theology.

My most recent initiative as an empirical theologian has been to go and observe the impact of the pandemic on churches, on ministers, and on everyday Christian disciples. To find out more about this initiative go online to look up Covid-19 and Church-21 survey. Why not complete the survey to add your voice to this developing work of empirical theology?

Jesus said, ‘Go and observe the sower’. Yes, please do so.

In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.