It’s no secret that the stats say the Church in the West isn’t doing well.
Oooh! Great blog post! I didn’t know that! Thanks.
There’s an easy fix to it, though. Well, it’s simple, actually I’m damn pretty damn sure that it isn’t easy. In fact, I’ll probably get death threats as a result of this post. But, it will do the trick. I promise.
Let me state the problem this way:
What if the biggest problem in the American Church isn’t that people don’t know enough about the faith, but that they know too much? What if sitting in a classroom learning is keeping the Church out of the world and causing decline? What if Sunday School is actually the enemy of discipleship? What if “meaty sermons” are making us too spiritually chubby to run the race set out for us?
If I hear the phrase, “I just want a church that will feed me” one more time I’m going to puke unicorns! The Church is at a tipping point where we are going to have to choose between learning the faith and living it.
Knowledge Isn’t What You ‘Think’
You know the saying, “a little knowledge goes a long way”? Well, it would seem that the church has declared that heretical and thrown it into the same book burn as Huckleberry Finn and the Harry Potter movies. If you look into churches today, you see the exact opposite: A ton of knowledge going nowhere. Let’s break this down like a steaming hot cup of James Brown funk.
Do you remember that time in Acts where the Christians hunkered down in a classroom in the basement and talked about Christianity for an hour? Do remember that time that Paul sat everyone down and walked them through the history of salvation on the felt board? What about when Peter was teaching that Bible Study in Asia Minor and said, “Hey, you know in the Greek this actually says…”? Good times. Oh, what about when Aquila was like, “So that’s what the passage says, what do you think it means?”
Of course you don’t. Because it never happened. Ever.
We may fight to preserve the sanctity of our classrooms and pulpits (where we feel safe) but we have abandoned the New Testament mission field (where we don’t) without a whisper. Today, the church often looks like a gathering of Christians that have abandoned Knowing Christ for Knowing about him.
Too Much Information
Since 1979, I have been an idiotically enthusiastic Police/Sting fan. There was a time in my life where I listened to the Police and Sting pretty much exclusively. It was only a few years. Don’t judge. I read every interview, tracked down every bootleg, watched every video, memorized every lyric, learned every song on bass and guitar, sought out every guest appearance, went to two shows per tour. Überfan comes to mind. There was a time where I knew pretty much everything you could know about Sting without actually knowing him.
And that was the thing.
I didn’t know him. I had no experience with him. I’d never been in his presence.
I knew all about him to the extent that I could. I knew as much you could about his stats and stories, but I didn’t know the man. I was a fan, not a friend. All information, no relation.
Are you with me? Don’t press play on that Andy Stanley podcast just yet.
Let me illustrate it this way.
The Webster’s Definition of Baseball looks like this:
Is that baseball?
Of course not! You can’t learn baseball from the dictionary much the same as you can’t learn to play it in a classroom. You can learn about baseball, but don’t expect to play in the majors if you’ve only watched highlights on Youtube.
Experience Is The New Knowledge
When we go to a baseball game, we experience so much more than we can learn from Webster’s. Unless it’s a Blue Jays game, maybe. Just kidding. Shout out, Toronto.
There’s the roar of the crowd, the organ, the “Take me out to the ballgame,” the announcer, the scoreboard, the beer, the hot dogs, the vendors, the quiet for the pitch and the applause of the base run, the speed of the wind up and the electricity of the strike out.
You can experience things at a baseball game that you can’t even watching on TV: the sheer discomfort of the wooden seats, the excited fan behind you that drops warm beer down your back trying to dance about a home run, the every shade of person you pass on the way to bathroom. It doesn’t end.
Point is: Webster’s can’t help you know baseball. You have to go to a game.
But if you really want to know baseball, really want to know the grit and the grime of all 9 innings, you have to close the dictionary, set down the beer and the stats and step onto the field and PLAY.
To play baseball is the best way to know baseball.
A player knows baseball. Everybody else knows about it.
It’s Not About What You Know, It’s About Where You Grow
Christian education is genetically programmed to create fans in the stands: Christian statisticians and consumers of facts about Jesus.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! The Christian faith is about experiencing the Father through the Son. It’s about knowing the man, not about him. Faith in Christ is experiential not intelligential – and we need teachers who guide us into experiences rather than a classroom.
See? Easy fix!
You can learn all about Jesus in a classroom, but the way you experience him, know him, is on mission with other Christ followers: walking worshipfully. You can know more about the Bible if you go to a book study, but you will know the Bible when you start living it in the world where God is on mission.
I’m not saying that Christian education is bad, simply that it’s not enough. Christians are educated by doing the faith more than talking about it. Mission is the classroom where life in Christ is learned. Adult Education is Mission. Sunday school is supplemental.
Teachers, we need you! We need you to help shape Christian faith, but we need you to lead Christians out of the classroom an into the world where God is making all things new!
In the next post, I will take a quick look at the concept of “knowing” in the Bible. Am I making stuff up? Doesn’t the Bible teach us to sit in a classroom and take notes on handouts? Aren’t we supposed to choose a church based on the quality of the preaching? We’ll see next time.
In the meantime, comments are open.
Let the Revolution begin.