GUEST POST ~ "They just don't know how"
By Mike Glenn
Every parent has made the mistake of asking their children to do something the child wasn’t quite ready to do. Maybe it was bringing in a bag of groceries before the child was quite strong enough to carry it by themselves. Maybe it was getting dressed before they understood the tag always goes in the back. The child understood what needed to be done. They just didn’t know how to do it.
I’m afraid this is true in most of our churches. Every Sunday, our members leave the worship service, inspired by the sermon, committed to doing something differently in their lives, but not knowing how they are to do the new thing they want to do.
The pastor said in the sermon we need to pray more. The members want to pray. They just don’t know how.
They’ve heard a sermon convincing them they need to read the Bible more. Again, every member wants to. They just don’t know how.
Discipleship, for most of us, has become a matter of information. Our depth of discipleship is determined by how much trivia we know about Jesus and the Bible. If someone can rightly point out the wise men visited Jesus in a house and not the stable, they are considered to be a serious student of the Word. In other words, they are real disciples.
This knowledge, however, never seems to transfer to the way these Bible quoting disciples actually live their lives. During my ministry, I have been repeatedly surprised to find my Scripture quoting members were some of the meanest people in the congregation. Why this disconnect?
Because we saw success in the church as people being able to quote the text, not necessarily live the Way. If someone could quote 1 Corinthians 13, they didn’t necessarily have to love their neighbor. They just have to know the words.
This happens when we become overly concerned about good works actually saving us. So, we focused on “belief” which means being able to repeat the discipleship lessons we’ve learned. To be able to say it meant we obviously believed it. True belief is confirmed in the doing, not the talking. All of us would agree good works don’t save us, but we forget good works are the evidence of our salvation. What we know and believe about Christ blossoms into the choices and actions lived out in our lives. We love our neighbors because we do loving things towards them. We love Jesus if we do what He teaches us to do.
That brings me to my point. How much time do we spend talking about how we do the disciplines of the faith we talk so much about? How many of us have spent time working with someone teaching them how to pray? How much time do we spend working with a class teaching them to read, study, understand then apply the learned truths to our actual living? How many times have our people left the church after hearing an inspiring sermon and realized they have no idea what to do with what they’ve just heard?
Paul reminds the Philippians to do whatever they have seen him do. I used to think this was an arrogant boast on behalf of Paul, but when I became a father, I understood his statement. I can’t remember the number of times I would say to one of my boys, “Do it like this. Watch me.” They learned to wash their hands, brush their teeth, tie their shoes, comb their hair, read their Bibles, love their wives and yes, become fathers to their own children by watching me. I had to show them how to do the things I wanted them to do and how each desired action should be done.
Why are we surprised we would have to be shown how to love our neighbors, pray, or study the Word? After all, we should remember, none of these actions come naturally.
I guess the only thing more surprising is realizing how little of our time is devoted to helping new or young believers actually do what we’re asking them to do as followers of Christ. No one is born being good at being a disciple. No one is born knowing how to pray or study Scriptures. All of us have to be taught.
Every good teacher I know is very patient. None of this stuff is easy. There will be days when our young disciples are brilliant. There will be other days when they don’t have a clue. Teaching – and learning– these skills takes a long time. In fact, learning them well takes our entire lives. The second quality good teachers have is intentionality. They have a goal for their student and they are determined to get their student to achieve that goal.
To know and not do, a wise man said, is the same thing as not knowing. Knowing the Word is proven by living the Way. Discipleship happens when disciples live out the teachings of Christ, not when we have memorized the words.
So, ask yourself, how well are you teaching the application of the teachings of Christ to those you are discipling? (You are discipling someone aren’t you? Every disciple makes a disciple…but that’s another blog). If your disciple can’t do what they believe they should be doing, it may be because they don’t know how.
Most people are living the best way they know how. The great thing about Jesus is He has a better “how.” Make sure your friends know how to do His “how” the way He would do it. This makes all the difference.