A couple of days ago I was working from a coffee shop. It was very busy that day when a couple of men walked in. The only place for them to sit was across the counter from me. So they sit down and start to talk business.
Then after they finish with their business transaction the conversation drifts towards church.
The one man said, “You know, the reason I go there [his church] is because of the teaching (he made sure to really emphasize the word “teaching”). When I sit down with those guys we’ll all bring our concordances and references books. We’ll cross-reference verses and look up the Greek. You know [name of friend] went to Multnomah Bible College and [name of another friend] went to [name of some other well-respected Bible school].”
The conversation continued like this. It was all about how good they could analyze the Bible. There was no talk about God or people. No mention of the friends this man had at church or the bond they had in the spirit. No discussion about how his life had been changed.
It was 100% based on the “teaching” and how many “scholars” were gathered in one place.
As I sat there listening to this conversation going on 2 feet from me I thought, man, is that really the best part of being born again and going to church? To analyze the Bible and be impressed by the fact that the people we agree with went to a prestigious Bible school?
Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an intellectual pursuit of the Bible. But I do believe there’s more than just a textbook understanding of God available to us. I believe for the most part we miss what God wants to do among and through His people.
What makes believers different from atheists?
Did you know atheists also love to study the subjects they’re interested in? So is the only difference between someone who’s been born again and an atheist, the text? What we “study” is right and what they study is “wrong”?
What about that whole “new creation” thing? The part about our spirits being dead and now they’re alive? Shouldn’t people whose spirits are alive be noticeably different from those whose spirits are dead?
The church likes to hurry up and plan
And did Jesus command us to go and learn…and read…and listen…and debate….and analyze….and memorize…and then when you’re really “mature” you’ll read longer, study more, and win all your debates (because you know you’re right)?
It reminds of something I heard recently,
“The church is always in a hurry up and plan mode. We gather in a huddle but never actually break to play in the game.”
Instead of going out and making disciples of all nations we’d rather have a Bible study to find out what exactly that really means in the Greek.
“God, when you said you’d pour out your Spirit on all flesh. What did you really mean by “all”?
Do you think if you knew Greek and Hebrew you’d be more equipped to change the world? Hey, I’m just asking…sometimes I feel like I would. But now that I’ve actually written that thought down it seems stupid (maybe we should all get in the habit of writing down all our thoughts…eh, actually, I guess that could go south fast. Never mind.).
OK, back to Jesus….
I think Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose from the dead to give us more than just a textbook understanding of Almighty God.
Now I don’t have this all figured out. I’m not some super-spiritual Christian who looks down on people who like to obtain knowledge. If you know me, you know reading and learning are two of my favorite things to do.
So like I said, I’m not against using our minds to glorify God. I’m just more hungry for the actual presence of God.
Why settle for learning about Him when we can be with Him?
What impresses us?
But somewhere, at some point we have to cease from our own works. We need to come into the presence of God and be impressed by Him. More impressed by God and the kingdom of heaven than with our own abilities to figure out scripture.
And at some point a holy love for God and for others must consume us. Or else we’re only different from the atheist in regards to the text we’re interested in studying.
Those are my thoughts on the matter. But I’d be interested in hearing yours. Feel free to leave a comment below.
About Josh Monen
Josh is a Christian, entrepreneur and writer from Ridgefield, WA. He's married with three kids: ages 4, 2 and 1. Before he met God, Josh was a drug addict with a $500/day cocaine addiction that almost killed him. Today he's seeking a real authentic relationship with God and others.
This was a good read. I have to admit I have fallen in with the “hurry up and plan mode and never break to play the actually game” a few to many times in my life… for some reason the song “if we are the body” by casting crowns comes to my mind. When ever I hear it I go in to a self check mode… many times coming out irritated with myself. Reading this kind of brought me there… our live should be more about the words coming to LIFE in us and through us instead of just the simple understanding of the words and there ancient meanings. Now I do believe all of the studying is great and I love when in my Beth Moore bible studies she gives the greek meaning of words, many times it gives a clearer understanding… however, a clearer understanding is nothing when it isn’t brought to life in our own lives, by a deep relationship with our Lord!
-wow God is good!
P.S. you will have to excuse my writing… I’m not always good at getting my thoughts to make sense in words.
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thank you for your comment. I know, I also struggle with wanting to hurry up and plan instead of simply obeying the Lord and stepping out in faith.
I like what you said about understanding not meaning much if it isn’t brought to life on our lives by a deeper relationship with God.
It reminds me when Jesus said “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40).
Thanks for sharing. I think you did a great job writing what you wrote. Remember, we’re usually our our own worst critic.
Hey Josh, fundamentally I agree with you. I agree 100% with your statement, “But somewhere, at some point we have to cease from our own works. We need to come into the presence of God and be impressed by Him.” Amen and amen.
But I disagree with the idea that churches and Christians today are too into using their minds, studying, and yes, analyzing the Bible and generally not shying away from intellectual pursuits. From my perspective the more common problem in churches today is an anti-intellectualism that emphasizes feelings and completely uncritical belief in the teachings of certain men who happen to be popular and successful pastors. I’m reminded of the Bereans, about whom Luke wrote, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11).” The Bereans examined the Scriptures to test whether or not the message that Paul and Silas brought was in accord with what God had already revealed about Himself and His messiah. I think out of an unfortunate anti-intellectualism or intellectual laziness most Christians today don’t use their minds to their full potential and examine the Scriptures to find out if what they’re thinking or what they’re hearing preached in church is in accord with God’s self-revelation in Scripture.
Ultimately I think of the greatest commandment to the love the Lord with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. I think the modern church often fails miserably at the loving the Lord with all our minds. I think there are a lot of places where the American church can and should be criticized. Thinking too much or being too intellectual is, in my opinion, not one of then.
Well bro, thanks for making me think. Hope I didn’t come off as too harsh but it is something I feel strongly about. I look forward to hanging out sometime soon and snowboarding whenever possible. God bless you bro.
Before I get into my response I just want let you know I really value and respect what you have to say. You’re always welcome to share what you believe with me without any fear of it damaging our friendship. And I don’t think you were being too harsh.
So first of all, like I said, I’m not against an intellectual pursuit of the Bible. I believe God gave us a mind so that we could know and love Him more.
I believe that when someone is born again they have the opportunity to think with “the mind of Christ”(1 Cor 2:16). I don’t think our intellect has to hinder what God wants to do in and through us but all too often it does.
What I was referring to in this post, is when people think that knowing God is all about an intellectual understanding and never even stop to consider that there’s more.
It reminds me of the story of Apollos in Acts 18:24-28, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.
So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
Here was a man who was mighty in the Scriptures yet still lacked a fuller understanding of the ways of God. He was right but there was something that was “more right”.
I know this is a fine line.
On one side the error is to ignore Scripture and just follow a man made religion. But on the other side the error is to assume we can know and love God simply through disciplined study. I think there’s problems on each side.
I also believe that how we receive and approach Scripture is important. If we think we can study it and understand it just as we would any other important text we miss out on a lot. I believe if we approach God’s Word with reverence and awe, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us then we’ll come into a much Fuller understanding of God’s ways.
I have so much more I’d like to say but typing on my phone is kind of slow so I’ll stop here. I would never want to discourage anyone from studying Scripture. I love the Bible and learning about God and life as I read it. I just want people to know that God has not only given us a mind to love Him but also a heart and a spirit.
Thanks againg for sharing Matt. I’m blessed to have a friend like you who is willing to discuss spiritual things.
I just read the words of this hymn tonight and thought it fit well with what we’re discussing:
“O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now into me,
That He may touch my eyes, and make me see;
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed I see Thee, Lord.”
-Break Thou the Bread of Life