Are you an American Christian that is addicted to studies and devotionals?
“Serious” Christians probably attend 1 to 2 1/2 studies a week. In addition, you probably have multiple devotionals coming through to your email as well as all of your Twitter scripture feeds and social media religious memes. Not to mention blogs such as this.
In the middle ages, there were no books, few people could read, and even if you could read most of the materials available would be in a different language. Yet, despite this lack of information and access to study materials, the Christian faith continued to expand and in some pockets of the world, flourish. Mission efforts included whole regions being won for Christ. Monasteries were overflowing with men and women hungry for God.
For devoted people of the Middle Ages, and the Early Church, for that matter, things of faith weren’t lab experiments that needed to be dissected, put up to the light, or analyzed from every angle. The things of faith were aspects that needed to be lived out, contemplated, and shared. Scriptures were prayers, models for living, and a way of life, not theories that needed to be discussed and arguments that needed to be won.
Was there corruption in the church, misinformation, abuses of religious power, and personal hypocrisies. Of course, but for those who were truly devoted to Christ, their faith started with the person of Jesus Christ not the study of the person of Jesus Christ and his word.
Perhaps we need to simplify our study and devotion time so we can get back to the purity of following Christ.
photo credit: public domain/giovanni bellini
I can attest that it is possible to attend half of a Bible study. Some of the ones I lead tend to put people into a deep sleep half-way through!
Somehow we have gotten this thing in our mind that our spirituality is reflected in our enthusiasm for a 6 week video-driven study, other small group meeting, a retreat, a conference, a camp, or that new shiny new devotional book, or even an academic book.
But what I think is a good indicator of our growth is a change in how we treat people who we don’t have to impress. Are we kind to the post office clerk? Do we have compassion on the down and out? Do we have a good and loving attitude toward our spouse, our children? What is my mind focused on when I am walking into the filling station to grab some beef jerky?
I also think it is interesting to think about how literacy has changed things. I think books are great. I mean, that is how God chose to communicate his Word after all!
Yet, I think I learn well, and something extra is communicated about scripture and the christian life to me when I am listening to preaching when I mow, clean the yard, and do other chores. The internet has made this possible, and I thank God for the internet for the impact it has allowed godly men to have on my life that I never would have even heard about otherwise.
There was a preacher named William Still, a Scottish Pastor who died in 1997, and tapes were made of most of his messages. That probably seemed like an extravagance to some to record those sermons at the time. The church sanctuary where he preached doesn’t seem much larger than the Olney sanctuary. But I’m glad they recorded it, because hearing his big booming voices, which sounds even better and bassy because the tape speed was off a little, makes a connection in my mind with him. It makes it easier to remember that I’m learning from a real person than when I get info from a book or a commentary. To make my sermons, I, as they say, milk a lot of cows- but I churn my own butter. I get a lot of milk from him, maybe not in what I say all the time, but how I say it. I feel the same way about S. Lewis Johnson.
This is true Chad. I have been trying to read some of Dante’s Divine Comedy. There is a terrific Great Courses on Dante and they talked about how people in Dante’s time understood and interacted with the Bible. It kind of pervaded their whole culture and existence. They were kind of soaked in it, especially the narrative aspects of scripture. I think we have even dismissed some of the narrative aspects as just for children’s curriculum and overemphasized the deep theology and scholarly sections.