Christian books are a huge market.
In 2007, InterVarsity Press (one of the bigger Christian publishers) estimated that there are between 8,000 and 9,000 religious books published every year. Personally, with close to 700 books in my collection, I could be accused of enabling this publishing trend. I love books. I love to read. I love information.
But here is my question: Why do we need so many Christian books every year? When we look at all of the books published, it’s staggering. The range of topics delivered from a biblical perspective includes marriage, parenting, finances, addiction, diet, health and more. So, I have to ask why do we need more?
With all that has been written, Christians should be the happiest, healthiest, most harmonious and most financially sound people in the world. Yet we’re not.
In fact when it comes to information we Christians believe that we have the ultimate source. We hold that the Bible has revealed God’s “divine power [that] has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him” (1 Peter 1:3). So we should have all the information we need.
Why isn’t it enough?
Perhaps, the problem isn’t the information. Perhaps the problem is what we DO with the information.
If we are honest, most education happening in the church is a one-way street of information. Sermons (which I love to preach) and classes (which I love to teach) have traditionally focused on the transmission of information. In these contexts, the speaker speaks and the audience absorbs.
However, we generally don’t see life transformation.
To be honest, I think we have been missing something. If we look at Jesus’s model for teaching, I think we have missed an important component. After all, the disciples were common men from common professions who struggled with all sorts of problems. Between their doubts, petty jealousies, power plays and other issues, they were a messed up bunch. Yet, after three years with Jesus, they were ready to change the world.
What made his teaching so effective? Of course, many books have been written on the subject. Still, I have observed 3 reasons why Jesus’s teaching was so transforming.
1. Jesus Expected Practice
Take a look at Luke 9 and 10. Both of these chapters open with Jesus sending his disciples on missions. In both passages, groups of Jesus’s students left the direct instruction of their teacher, put his teaching into practice, and then reported back.
In other words, Jesus expected them to do something. He expected them to practice what he preached them.
Of course, Jesus did spend considerable time teaching his disciples the information they needed to follow him (check out Matthew 5,6,&7). But we cannot escape the fact that part of Jesus’s “curriculum” for his followers was practical experience in real life.
Do our churches have practical implementation built into our teaching?
2. Knowledge Alone Makes Us . . . Puffy.
Knowledge is a good thing. I wouldn’t be working on my second Master’s degree if I didn’t believe that we need information. However, the Bible also tells us that “Knowledge inflates with pride” (1 Cor 8:1).
Therefore, if all we do is transmit biblical information to people, then we will have puffy saints. In my experience, puffy saints are more interested in receiving more information and less interested in pursuing Jesus’s mission for the world.
We definitely need knowledge and we must also put that information into practice. Our good, biblical knowledge is worthless. . . without putting it into action.
3. God’s Word is a Sword, Not a Blanket
When we read Hebrews 4:12, we read that God’s Word is both alive and that it has a purpose.
What does it mean that the Word of God is alive? Well, that’s a long answer. Come to Evanston Avenue Baptist on Easter. We’ll be starting a new sermon series that answers that very question.
The second part of Hebrews 4:12 shows that God’s Word has a purpose. God did not give us His Word so that we could win at Bible Trivia. The goal is that we will be transformed, down to our very core.
If we are honest, many Christians want God’s Word to be their safety blanket. Many Christians want to only hear Bible teaching that reinforces what they already believe. They want to hear teaching that ultimately leaves them the same. However, this is not the purpose of God’s Word.
God gave us his Word so we can change.
The Missing Piece.
If we add practice to our instruction, I believe we will see more lives transformed in a lasting way.
Does your church have intentional times and places where you can put the teaching into practice? In your Sunday school or small group settings do you only talk about what God’s Word says or do you put it into practice?
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