While learning about how to impact people intentionally during a coaching seminar last week, I was asked to add two fractions. This is a basic algorithmic exercise through which most third graders would breeze without much brainwork. The coaching exercise illustrates the need for a common denominator; which is of course how you solve the equation, however, the result of the exercise for me was one of embarrassment. I could not remember how to solve this simple math problem. Turns out the nine-year-old me was wrong. I did need to know this stuff.
What was the point of ever learning how to add fractions in the first place? Just to clarify and calm the nerves of parents, this is not a justification for those in school to no longer work hard. Kids, do your homework and do it well. Stop asking, “When will I ever need to know this?” The most relevant answer is next week’s exam. But also, don’t be that guy in his thirties who can’t recall how to add fractions. Don’t be that guy.
So for those of us who embody the church today, for what benefit is the knowledge we possess or at least one time received (or even taught)? We certainly spend much of our time in church receiving knowledge through one mode or another. But what is it worth? Unfortunately, for many within the church, not much. We often receive and receive and receive and receive and then die. You know to whom I’m referring-the Bible study junkies who hop from study to study to study, but never live their lives differently than if they had never once participated in (or even taught) a single study. (I’m not sippin’ on haterade here-just trying to call things as I see them. If I’m wrong, tell me.) The knowledge we receive carries no more value in our enlightenment than in our ignorance.
Knowledge takes on greater value when it is received in order to reproduce. You know, like multiply. (Pardon the math pun.) I would have easily been able to solve the addition of fractions through a common denominator if I was spending my life teaching others what I had learned of elementary arithmetic. Similarly, in the church, we teach and learn as an end, rather than as a means to an end. Knowledge, or even belief, is limited in its value until it leads me to action for the sake of myself and others. Perhaps the saving “knowledge” of Jesus Christ deserves more than to be simply taught or learned in the classic tenor.
How can we practice increasing the value of the knowledge we receive and teach as believers for the sake of multiplication, because the bottom line is that we have work to do, and a lecture isn’t going to cut it.
Whew, all I can say that I would have been in a similar mathematical boat that would have been sinking fast.
But your bigger point about knowledge or data often being seen as the end instead of how that knowledge combined with action can create value in a system, culture, church that becomes a manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth is a helpful stance to maintain. Knowledge puffs up…
Ultimately, you are pointing us towards an awareness that our actions point towards a greater mission than just ourselves. And, amen to that!