Consider someone I will call “Tom.” Tom is a guy I know. He is a nice guy who dutifully has attended church for many years. I’m afraid to report that all Tom’s church attendance still leaves him with a pretty thin understanding of the Christian faith. He is surrounded by opportunities to grow in his understanding of the Christian faith (as are all of us Americans), but they don’t capture his imagination. Tom complains that he is too busy with work plus he says he has adult Attention Deficit Disorder (commonly called ADD).
So what do you think Tom does when the opportunity presents itself to take an intensive course in his field? To take the course he must spend thousands of dollars, live away from home for several weeks, and take several months to digest a thick binder of technical information before he heads off to New York City. He jumps at the chance with gusto and clearly has a focused determination to push himself intellectually. Tom unabashedly tells several of us that the course will give him an edge which will most likely increase his already considerable salary.
We may be tempted to assume our day and age presents a unique challenge to learning because of ever-present media and the pull toward immediate gratification. Consider the words of Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter, to the men in his congregation:
“Were you as but willing to get the knowledge of God and heavenly things as you are to know how to work in your trade, you would have set it to yourself before this day, and you would have spared no cost or pains till you had got it. But you account seven years little enough to learn your trade, and will not bestow one day in seven in diligent learning the matters of your salvation.”
And J.I. Packer notes this was a “working-class congregation.”
Down the ages everyone has always been tempted to wander from God. Some are more honest than others like Augustine who confessed to finding Cicero’s writings more compelling than Scripture.
There is nothing new under the sun. Believing that we have such unusual temptations to keep us from learning is a dodge each one of us must be honest about.
As quoted in J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 70.
 Ibid., 164.
Interesting because, although opportunities MIGHT indeed be available for growing in the knowledge and grace of God, I believe many pulpits have been remiss in ‘teaching the Scriptures,’ and as a result, most members of the congregation have no idea what it means to ‘grown in the knowledge and grace of God.’ Folks often need to be somehow ‘drawn’ to para church studies to grow in Him because churches, like our public educational system, is appealing to the lowest common denominator believing that is how the need is met. Having said that, we do have a personal responsibility, I agree, and the benefit of pursuing God is enormous.
My initial reaction is that “Tom” just doesn’t have the right priorities. But that’s profoundly unhelpful! Saying “you’ve got the wrong priorities” rarely results in someone adopting the right priorities. Tom’s problem, it seems, is that he sees the benefit of studying for this trade, and therefore he’s motivated, but not so in his own discipleship. If he was convinced there was a real benefit to getting to know Christ deeply and to be knowledgeable in the Word, then he has already shown he has the guns to study, learn, and apply when motivated. Then I wonder if Tom has enough evidence surrounding him that the benefit is actually there to be had. Am I expecting Tom to believe something that he doesn’t see in abundance of in me?
Jeannie: It is unfortunate that many migrate to parachurch ministries for further equipping.
Colby: You are correct. We must paint a vision that going deeper is valuable, has great benefits, etc. As you well say, otherwise it is mere behaviorism we are promoting.