I read a lot. Sometimes it is for pleasure, but mostly I read to keep up. The world is a changing place, as you well know. It seems that every day there is something new to consider, ponder, even be concerned about. It is important to know the state of things around me.
“Industry-related” reading is also highly recommended across the board, in order to be up to speed on the latest and most effective methods of doing your business, whatever your business is. Anyone who wants to be at the top of his or her game knows the value of learning as much as possible about what he or she does.
Another reason I read is to be able to make informed decisions. I want to know as many perspectives as possible, and I want to weigh the pros and cons of those perspectives. Somewhere amid the plethora of views lies a truth that can be discerned. At a time when most sources of information seem more bent on persuading than informing, it is more important than ever to gather as many facts as I can.
So I wonder why it is then that among church folk there exists what appears to be a collective acceptance when it comes to faith. Rather than making an individual effort to discern truth, we seem content to let someone else do our thinking for us. By that, I mean we’re more inclined to leave the Bible stuff to the religious professionals. “That’s what we pay them for” is a grossly misguided statement I’ve heard more times than I’m comfortable with. While the clergy person’s advanced academic studies are helpful, they can never be a substitute for each disciple’s own personal study.
Some pastors are OK with their congregation allowing them to be the sole theologian among the flock. I am not. My own theological studies have merely equipped me to know a few things that may not be common knowledge to those who have not studied the Scriptures formally. My degree does not, however, make others less accountable for digging deep and allowing their relationship with God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to inform their understanding. We all must answer for our own faith, and true spiritual transformation comes through the work of God within each of us individually.
The journey of faith is comprised of many points. Where one is on that journey depends upon the extent to which the sojourner invests in it. Hearing about God from others may be appropriate if one has never heard before. Thinking on it and studying the matter further may be appropriate for others.
Spending time alone – good, quality time – in the reading of and meditating upon the Scriptures is what is needed for still others. Wherever one is, the expectation is to continually be striving for the next point. Investing what we can and stretching ourselves is the only way to grow deep in our faith.
Biblical illiteracy has plagued the church for quite some time. Twentieth-century pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer called it “spiritual laziness” to let others listen for the voice of God for you. I echo that thought. How can any of us call ourselves a disciple if we are not willing to take the time to prayerfully and thoughtfully study what it takes to be one?
The Rev. Randall Monk is the lead pastor of Ekklesia Faith Community in Grovetown.