The university is a wonderful place for those that love to learn. For four or more years, you have access to a massive library, a faculty of those who have devoted their entire lives to understanding whatever subject they love, and often share living space others who have the same goal: to give evidence of enough mastery of a subject that they can receive a degree in exchange.
I love learning. I always have. This precisely is why I love the university so much. Yet there is something about how we evaluate knowledge in the West that sends a message that can often leave us missing the whole point of discipleship.
In school, you take quizzes and exams, and you write papers. All of these are to demonstrate that you acquired the appropriate knowledge. If your knowledge is enough for you to pass, then you can graduate. Thus, education often becomes about acquiring enough knowledge to meet the expectation given from the professor.
Further, with the invention of the internet and the smartphone, we have entered the information age. Learning some facts are easier than it used to be, so we have probably never before been filled with so many facts. The more facts we can regurgitate, the smarter we sound, even if we do not know how to process these facts in light of reality and what the consequences of these facts are.
Simply put, we are conditioned to consider learning to be acquiring enough knowledge to pass an exam and that the more knowledge we obtain, the smarter we can be perceived.
Though these things are not inherently bad, what happens when we take these methods to the Bible?
We suffer from "knowledge-based discipleship."
Knowledge-based discipleship essentially asserts the more you know about the Bible the holier you are. Most people base their Christian life on how much they study their Bible, how many verses they can memorize, how many Christian books they read, or how well they can debate or discuss theological ideas.
Again, none of these things are inherently bad, but if knowledge is the goal of the Christian life, I suggest it is bad.
Jesus did not call us to knowledge-based discipleship. He called us to devotion based discipleship. Devotion-based discipleship is a term we have coined at the BCM that we believe best describes what Jesus is asking of his followers. It requires we get our hands dirty. That we submit to a process that leaves God leading our growth
So what is the difference between these two ways of discipleship?
Knowledge-based discipleship is concerned only with how much of the Bible you know. Devotion-based discipleship is concerned with how much of the Bible you obey.
Knowledge-based discipleship is concerned with how much you know about God. Devotion-based discipleship is concerned with how often you encounter God throughout the average day.
Knowledge-based discipleship is concerned with how much scripture you have memorized. Devotion-based discipleship is concerned with how much scripture you practice.
Knowledge-based discipleship elevates the sermon as the best way to encounter truth weekly. Devotion-based discipleship elevates scripture study in small, free, discussion driven community is the best way to encounter truth weekly.
Knowledge-based discipleship stresses the important on how many theological and Christian books you should read. Devotion-based discipleship stresses the importance of how many disciples you make.
Those are just a few of the difference. Let me be clear. All the things that were listed on knowledge-based discipleship are not inherently wrong. Yet, if we start with knowledge-based discipleship, we convey the message that what you know is more important than what you obey. This is antithetical to Jesus' and the Apostles' way of doing ministry. They taught obedience first.
If we start with knowledge-based discipleship, we convey the message of what you know is more important than what you obey.
We can read many books and still make disciples, but we cannot place reading books above disciple-making. We can probably only practice scripture if we start by memorizing it, but if we only collect verses in our head to regurgitate, we are no closer to knowing God than we were before.
The main issue here is the heart. Why do we do the things we do? Do we do them so that we can live in deeper relationship with God and to obey him more? If not, then I suggest you are a product of knowledge-based discipleship.