This is a favorite way that the devil likes to attack the church, and it is very insidious because it has the appearance of personal piety. It is very easy to get focused so much on learning that it can become an idol. If all of our time is spent in attending church services, listening to Christian radio and podcasts, reading Christian books, blogs, and magazines we are missing the point. The aim of the knowledge of Scripture is to love God and our neighbor. If we are not practicing what we know with one another, we are not helping ourselves. I encourage you to take to heart what Francois Fenelon said,
We can listen to endless sermons about Christian growth, and become perfectly familiar with the language, and yet be as far from its attainment as ever….Although being a know-it-all makes us feel important, what is really needed to strengthen Christian character is love. So don’t be satisfied with anything less than love. You certainly don’t think it possible that the love of God and the dethroning of self can only be reached through the acquisition of knowledge. You already have more knowledge than you can use. You would do better to put into practice what you already know. Oh how we deceive ourselves when we suppose that we are growing in grace because our vain curiosity is being gratified by the enlightenment of our intellect!
The goal is not knowledge but love. Love requires knowledge, but knowledge is not love.
Let me give you an example. I love preaching. I look forward to every opportunity God gives me to share God’s Word. I believe that preaching is one of the regular tools God uses to teach, encourage, and admonish His people. Not only do I love preaching, I love listening to good preaching. When I am not preaching, I love listening to the senior pastor at my church, Pastor Boylan. He is always stretching me and helping me more and more to understand God’s word and what God wants from me. We both have been called to preach, and we both see the sermon as the centerpiece of the worship service.
I will not pretend to speak for Pastor Boylan, but to me, the real excitement and work of ministry is not preaching, it comes after the service. Love does not happen in the pulpit.
Don’t get me wrong, a preacher needs to be motivated by love, his sermon needs to be born from his love for God and for the people he is addressing. But the real transforming work of the Spirit that builds the fruits of the Spirit in the life of the believer happens after the service in our relationships with one another.
Love happens one on one. It happens through discipleship. That, I believe, is why all Christians are called to disciple. If preaching was where it was at, then the Great Commission would have been a call to make preachers from all nations. Maturity is not gauged by preaching, knowledge, spiritual gifts, or whatever else there might be. Maturity is gauged by love. And love comes by discipleship.