The Fallout Revisited is an occasional series, delving back into the five plus years of archived posts here on the blog and digging up some of the highlights and posts that are still relevant. This article was originally posted January 18, 2010
It seems to me that there is a problem common in the evangelical church, one that inhibits our ministry to those who are unreached and leaves us sitting in chairs and pews with heads full of good things that do no good at all. Our command and commission is to love God and the world He created by going into it, baptizing, making disciples, and teaching them to obey. Yet often times we get so stuck teaching people to obey the minutiae of the Lord’s commands that we forget that the greatest of them involves going out and doing, not merely avoiding sin or having the right doctrine. In the main, the church over emphasizes educating its people, a thing that has (at least) three detrimental effects on our ministry.
It causes people to value knowledge over love; right doctrine over right action; and education over relation.
Like a man building a house and caring more about what kind of screws are being used to hold the boards together that he does about building the house, many among the church today seem to be more worried about right doctrine and proper answers than they are about the church being a place where people can come to find life. It is most certainly an essential thing to have good, strong screws that will prevent a home’s frame from pulling apart under its own weight, but if the home is never built and no one is sheltered by it from the storms outside, what good is the thing? We need sound doctrine and deep knowledge, as well as people educated in the things of the Lord, but those things are not the thing.The thing is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor like you do yourself, and that through fulfilling the great commission. We do need to be a people who are deeply grounded in the word and in doctrine, sure of the truth and confident in our beliefs. We need to do so in the same way that a good construction worker knows each of his tools, what they are for, when to use them, and how to train others in their use. Yes, educate, but educate for the sake of ministry, love, and action!
It leaves people who do not feel fully educated feeling as if they are not fit to minister.
This is perhaps the most crippling of the three, one that saddens me greatly. There are a vast number of people in the evangelical church that feel as if they are not able to minister or present the gospel due to the fact that they have been taught (usually implicitly, without the leadership even realizing it) that one must be well versed in apologetic techniques, Bible verses, and facts to support Christianity in order to bring others to Christ. Even in my own life I see the bitter fruit of this problem. I spent years in my church’s student leadership training (at the time named CORE) being taught different evangelistic techniques like the “Romans road,” being given pages of evidence that the Bible is a historically accurate book, and taking the assigned time to write out my testimony in three different versions for the varying amounts of time I may at some point have to share it with someone, all the while being told that that you don’t have to be smart or have the entire Bible memorized or have attended church all your life to be prepared to evangelize. Yet which do you suppose spoke louder; The words or the large amount of time spent preparing us to evangelize?
Through all of those four or five years, I cannot think of a single time where I spoke of Christ to a person who I knew to be unsaved, simply because I felt that I wouldn’t do a good enough job since I didn’t know enough. Oh, how far that is from the truth! See how Paul in 1st Corinthians consciously chooses to lay aside his knowledge and skills in rhetoric, choosing instead to “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message where not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-4)
It is not in education or knowledge that the Lord’s power works. Far to the contrary, it is in our weak and trembling faith that he moves. Seek knowledge of the Lord, not for knowledge’s sake, but for the sake of having your mind transformed so that you may better see and know Him, thereby increasing your faith. Spurgeon helped me greatly when I read this in one of his sermons titled “Gospel Missions”;
We send educated men to India in order to confound the learned Brahmins. Nonsense! Let the Brahmins say what they like, have we any business to dispute with them? “Oh, but they are so intellectual and so clever.” What have we to do with that? We are not to seek to be clever in order to meet them. Leave the men of the world to combat their metaphysical errors; we have merely to say, “This is truth: he that believeth it shall be saved, and he that denieth it shall be damned.” We have no right to come down from the high ground of divine authoritative testimony; and until we maintain that ground, and come out as we ought to do, girded with the belt of divinity—preaching not what may be true, but asserting that which God has most certainly revealed—we shall not see success.
Have you faith, young Christian? If you are indeed a Christian, faith is yours, for God is the one who gives faith and he gives it to all he has chosen or else they would not be saved, for it is “by faith you have been saved.” Do you have faith? Then you have all you need to minister and evangelize. How wrong the church is to demand that men have more than what God himself demands! Absolutely, memorize the Bible, study deep into theology and religion, but all for the sake of faith, not as an end in itself!
Over emphasizing education creates a passive people.
This point, in many ways, is simply a drawing out of a point implicit in the other two. When we put our main emphasis on education and proper doctrine, the common person is left feeling as if their job is simply to sit in their chairs and receive what is given to them. There is the rare individual who will rise and study for themselves, but for the most part the people are left to feeling as if when they listen and gain knowledge then they have done their part. Such is the state of much of our national education system; by the time students reach their late middle school or early high school years they have, for the most part, been taught so much and done so little with what they’ve learned that they are convinced that when they have attend class and answer the in-class questions and tests they have successfully done all that is needed. A wretched fact it is that the church seems to have moved in that same direction! The fact that we have cared more about people
We are to be the people who hear and do; to be like Moses, who spent time in his tent with the Lord daily, but never stayed there. Instead, he went out so radiant with the Lord’s glory that the people needed him to cover his face. Or like the Israelites in Exodus 24 after hearing the Word read responded by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
So for those of you who are church leaders; for those who love sound doctrine and good teaching, I urge you, love even more Christ and his command. Beware that you do not place “teaching them to obey all that I commanded” above and before loving, going, baptizing, and making disciples. All of those things are equally essential, and it is our part to hold them all up, to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ.
And for those who are not leaders in any official capacity, don’t allow yourselves to become passive or fall prey to the thought that you are not a fit minister for your King. Don’t doubt the one who called you; he who calls will fit each of his people for the ministry to which he sends them, and He has sent you…over two thousand years ago you, as well as every other person whom the Lord foreknew was sent by Christ’s command.
So, for all, go! Love doctrine and truth and studying down into the depths of the gospel, but do so for the sake of faith and spreading the Word. Do not be those cold people, brains filled with gospel truth but hands, feet, and mouths dead and not proclaiming or living it out. Instead, consider Christ, the Apostles, and numerous other men and women who have come before you and imitate them as they spread the Gospel, for who knows how the Lord will use you?