There is an old saying, “He has just enough knowledge to make him dangerous.” A little knowledge with a lot of zeal is often a wicked combination that leaves a trail of broken relationships behind. The Apostle Paul had this concern for followers of Jesus, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Knowledge is not the problem Paul is addressing. Having knowledge is fundamental to our faith. It is a little knowledge that leads to pride and away from love. That is what Paul is addressing.
It seems that in the American Church we have fed this type of knowledge. The church is not known for taking people deep. Some churches and believers who are doctrinalists emphasize only a belief system as their god, going around getting people to submit to John Calvin. Their motto is, “we just need to preach the gospel.” The funny thing is it often comes out that they have not really diligently committed themselves to really understanding this gospel. They read a few things and think “they have it.” These people are brutal.
Other churches and believers are fundamentally pragmatists. They teach that, “we have to just get the job done.” There is not much regard for doctrine nor for building deep relationships in this paradigm. These people become manipulators, using people only as resources to get the job done.
Finally, many churches and believers are relationalists. Doctrine is much too divisive and structure is much too constricting. Their motto is, “we just need to build relationships.” These people become hypocrites in which they “love” a small group of people right to hell. They will not grow in their ability to influence as they resist structure and many people will not know the saving truth of the gospel, as they resist doctrine.
All three of these positions on their own are dangerous and are the result of the churches feeding people with a one dimensional knowledge. They do get puffed up in it. Go and ask people from any of these camps and they will vaguely explain why they have it all figured out. In the midst of this what are we left with though? An America that has over 80% of the people professing to be Christians while at the same time murdering nearly a million babies per year and nominating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as our candidates of choice. A little knowledge is dangerous. We must go deeper. We must not be one dimensional in our faith. We must grow in our Doctrine, Discipline, and Discipleship.
Doctrine is fundamental and vitally important to building our spiritual muscle. Here is the thing, all of us have a doctrine already. What we believe about God and His world is our doctrinal belief. It is utterly inescapable. What I am concerned with today though is growing as a believer. To grow as a believer we must grow in our understanding of doctrine. We must grow in our ability to know how to study to grow in our understanding of doctrine. The Apostle Paul urged the believers in the early church to teach and pursue sound doctrine:
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1).
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4a).
Doctrine is vitally important and needs to be contended for. Doctrine that is not applied is ineffective and brutal. We must grow in our knowledge of the truth but that must drive us to take the gospel to the nations.
The Christians should be the hardest working group of people out there. Not people who are working hard from a works righteousness position but out of understanding the covenantal responsibilities we have before God. Man is God’s agent for dominion. In order to claim dominion, that will take long term vision, strategic thinking, goal setting, time management and a diligent work ethic. There is no such thing as some work being sacred and other work secular. All of the earth is the Lord’s and we should be disciplined with our life to be more effective in God’s Kingdom.
If this is an area you struggle with, here are some practical suggestions of steps to take in order to grow in discipline:
In the civil war Abraham Lincoln had the most sought after general in the war. General McClellan was highly organized and a very effective administrator and communicator. His troops were always well trained and always ready and prepared for battle. There was one major flaw with his leadership style though. He would not fight! When the rubber met the road he could not pull the trigger to get his troops into battle, proving him to be very ineffective. We can do the same thing in the church. We can have the greatest programs but at the end of the day if we are not making disciples then we are missing the mission. Jesus called us to go and make disciples of all nations. This is what our mission is all about.
This means we as believers should work really hard at building friendships with people. For introverts this is painful (trust me I know from experience). This is no excuse for us not being people that other people like to be around though. Also, we need to grow in our ability to share the gospel and to train people how to be discipled through reading the Bible and good books, listening to good audio recordings and podcasts, and being part of a small group. If our discipleship makes people dependent on us then we are doing them a disservice. If we train them to grow whether or not we are around then we are really serving them well. We are called to make Spirit led disciples.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.