Thursday, September 24, 2009
Knowing for What Purpose...
When I reflect back upon the differences between my grandparents time and my own, I am reminded that my grandparents lived in a far smaller world than I do. They did not have TV with 24 hours news cycles to bring everything that happens everywhere into their living rooms. They did not travel as I travel and stayed much closer to the center of the circle of their home area than I have. They did not have a large library of books to call their own -- a library fueled by the ridiculously cheap prices and easy access of an Amazon.com -- as I do. They did not carry cell phones or do email or surf the Internet as I do every day.
My point is this, it is not simply that they knew less than I know, but that what they knew they knew well and their knowledge was meant for use. So much of our knowledge today is trivial and nearly all of it passive knowledge. We know about things but we seldom are called to use this knowledge for any real purpose. We know about things around the world but we are still far removed from these places and so the knowledge does not move us to action as much as it satisfies curiosity. We find out so much about things through all the electronic media available to us but what do we do with this information? Do we act upon it? Do we file it away for a someday that never comes? Do we read it only to replace its information with other stuff? Are we growing in knowledge so that we can accomplish things or do we collect information as if it were just another obscure hobby?
I am thinking in particular about Bible study and the learning about God, God's work in history, the Church, etc. It occurs to me that people can do Bible study on line, they can have it tweeted to their cell phone, they can use software designed to access every unusual word in Scripture in a moment, they have access to a library at their computer terminal, they have millions of sermons available to them at a moment... But at the same time, we struggle to find Sunday school teachers or youth group leaders or church leaders. What are people doing with all this knowledge if they are not applying it as teachers, leaders, and servers for the cause of the Gospel?
My fear? Well, my fear is that we have become rather passive about all this knowledge, about all this religious knowledge. We read it all but it does not motivate or move us. We are well informed but do not apply this information in any substantial way. We like have our curiosity satisfied but we are not so sure about taking up the mantle of teaching others what we know.
All the time I hear people say, "Oh, Pastor, I don't want to give up being in your Bible study to teach Sunday school; I would miss too much." Well, maybe yes and maybe no. As Christian people we cannot always be hearers... James reminds us that we are also to be doers. What we miss in one place learning, is made up by what we accomplish teaching.
I fear that we are raising up generations of rather selfish Christians who place self-interest above the call to serve. If that is true, we need to re-examine what we are doing. Knowledge of Scripture and the Christian faith should result in servants for the Kingdom, equipped to do God's bidding.
We live in a wonderful time when information and great materials are easily accessible to every Christian-- even among our own LC-MS we have a very promising new Lutheran study Bible, the Concordia readers edition of our Confessions, the Treasury devotional book, a new and well done hymnal, catechism resources in addition to the catechism itself... I do not mean to suggest we should not use these wonderful resources. I am wondering if we are failing to challenge, encourage, and call upon our people to use all these resources for the purpose of serving the Lord in all the various places where faith intersects with life (both in and out of the congregation)... Just some thoughts...