Friday, September 16, 2011


Some churches are more like schools, than churches. They have teachers, classes, and textbooks. The people come "to learn." The pastor is hired "to teach the Word." It's all very academic. It's not education, a good thing. It's educationalism, a bad thing. It's the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Heads are full of info, but hearts are cold.

In my humble opinion, the gravitation for the church toward "educationalism" has come from two places:

1. The American School System. The Sunday School movement (which was a huge movement in the church a hundred years ago) patterned after the American school system. To a great extent, "discipleship" to this day is often thought to require a text book and a classroom. The American school system is very linear and departmentalized/compartmentalized (age graded, 101, 201, etc.). It is classic modernism from a decidedly Western viewpoint. Jesus' instruction was quite non-linear and holistic. It is from an Eastern, circular, viewpoint. The Hebrew model of education is a more "as you walk along the way" model. However, Jesus also modeled extended teaching times (Matthew 5-7) and Rabbis would often teach for long periods in the synagogue. We have an instance in Acts where a guy fell out the window because the teaching session got so long; obviously we don't want to kill people!

2. The Denominational Seminary. Seminaries are mostly lead by scholars, and what scholars can best model to their students is how to study in depth and teach in depth, not how to lead, evangelize, mentor, pastor or disciple. Greek professors will pound the lectern about how important it is to know Greek, but at times, I've gotten the sense that this point of view is also about their job security. As long as everyone is convinced they need to know the original languages to be a pastor, then students will pay the big bucks for a "seminary education." Lately, however, the secret is starting to get out that this whole business is oversold, and that while the pastor needs to be a student of the Word, he does not need to be a scholar of the Word. In fact, some of the most ineffective pastors are seminary trained, and there may be a bit of cause and effect there. So I like Donald Miller's statement: "The first disciples were not teachers, they were fishermen, tax collectors and at least one was a Zealot. We don't know the occupation of the others, but Jesus did not charge educators with the great commission, he chose laborers. And those laborers took the gospel and created Christian communities that worked, that did things and met in homes and were active."

For myself, I have done the schooling. I've earned the degrees. I have a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Divinity and have completed coursework for a Doctor of Ministries. I'm not anti-education. But I am anti-educationalism. What we need is knowledge on fire. What we need is knowledge on purpose. We need heads and hearts that are in service to Christ and His kingdom. We need to remember that "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" is in service to "go and make disciples."

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