Equipping the Saints: The Simple Genius


Roaming the Internet in search of genuine Christian expression paints what I believe is an unnatural picture of what constitutes the full expression of the Christian faith. Perhaps it should come as no surprise though, given the technical nature of the Internet and the costs involved to maintain an Internet presence, that the denizens of the Web, especially those who speak most loudly for the Faith, are college graduates.

But when I look over the people who have had the most impact on my life as a Christian, the majority never got beyond a high school education. And it never fails that I continue to learn the most about Jesus from people others might deem “simple.”

From a viewpoint of Christian education, these so-called simple people are often the ones with the most unshakable faith in Jesus. If anything, my experience has been that the people with the most degrees are the ones who flirt most often with doubt and who end up getting distracted by rathole theological discussions that ultimately never go anywhere or accomplish anything.

After a while, you start seeing that the difference between the simple person and the guy with the degree letters piling after his name comes down to whether they genuinely live with the Bible as their primary source of knowledge or some other tome (or set of tomes).

The people I know who never ventured into the ivied corridors of academia tend to have a more humble opinion of their own abilities. Ask the college graduate just who provides his living, and he’s most likely to point to himself. The simple person says, “I have all this because God is good to me, and not because of anything I have done.” Simple people say that whatever God says, that pretty much settles it. The college man says he will need to consult all sources before coming to an opinion. When simple people face disaster, they note that both good and bad come from the hand of the Lord, and are we not to accept both? The college grad wonders what he did wrong or to whom he should assign blame.

Are these generalizations? Sure, but I will argue they are not far off the mark.

I continue to get more from so-called simple people, the ones ignored in a lot of churches because they never went to seminary, didn’t graduate from a prestigious Bible college, can’t talk about Proust or quantum physics or how Wall Street schemes up new derivatives. Do we know what she knows of our Lord?Simple people often work simple jobs also, the kind that don’t get them a cover story on Business Week. Simple people who farm the land or work as greeters at WalMart aren’t the ones that churches push front and center when the photo op comes; they’ll choose the captain of industry with the Harvard M.B.A. And when Christian publishers fight to place another Christian Living bestseller on the top shelf of the local bookstore, they’re not beating down the doors of the old waitress at Denny’s, no matter what 50 years of walking close to the heart of Jesus has taught her. No, they want legitimacy, the kind found in clobbering home runs, or running a megachurch empire, or having once been a cohost on The 700 Club.

Not a day passes when I don’t consider that I have learned the most in my walk with Jesus from people who would otherwise be ignored because they don’t have flashy credentials. And I wonder just as much how it can be that we routinely pass by these repositories of simple faith and hard-won wisdom gained at the feet of Jesus. They languish, not because they have nothing to say, but because we’re ignoring them.

If you take all the Christians blogs out there, including this one, and pile their collected wisdom against the pile comprised by what the simple people know, it would seem like the smallest foothill on the way to K2 and Everest.

I think the greatest loss of wisdom in our churches today is that we’ve pushed out the simple people. We’ve done a lot of that to the elderly too. And when that elderly person is some simple soul, it’s the double whammy.

It’s time to take the microphone away from the 35-year-old Th.D. and give the podium to the stooped old lady in the back pew who never made it past 10th grade. I’ve heard what all the self-appointed church genuises have had to say and it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Let someone else talk for a change.

You know that I’m not disparaging education, far from it. I’m saying that some education can only be gained in simple faith and through the crucible of time.

When I was in college, a friend once asked me if I had a wish for my education. I told him bluntly that I would trade every single bit of arcana I had picked up in my collegiate travels to know the Bible backwards and forwards.

There are people among us who have done just that. We need to get those people to share what they have learned. Many of those people are the ones who truly live by “give us this day our daily bread,” who actually spend two hours a day in prayer rather than just trying to impress others with all the theological treatises on prayer they’ve read. They know the Lord, not just about Him like so many of the rest of us do.

You can read all the Christian books in the world, but one saint who has lived it all is the more precious library. That’s the person I want to hear from. Don’t you?

Then please, let us step out of the way and encourage them to speak.

Let’s Talk About Sex—Or Not


Three things you don’t discuss in polite company, right? We just spent a month talking about two of them, so why not touch on the third?

On Saturday, my wife and I drove past a megachurch whose motto is “A Church for People Who Don’t Like Church.” The church has a new promo billboard up advertising an upcoming series on sex. My wife and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.

As a married man, I’ve learned a lot about sex over the years. The greatest truth I’ve learned on the topic, the one guaranteed to drive one’s partner wild with ecstasy, comes right from the Bible. If explored to its depths, every ramification plumbed, I can guarantee this Scriptural admonition will lead to a most exhilarating sex life.

You ready? Because here it is:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
—Philippians 2:4

Any married couple actively and passionately seeking to satisfy each other’s sexual interests and needs will have an eye-fluttering, bed-shaking, big-O sex life. Now, go have sex and practice putting that verse into action. Detail from 'The Kiss' by Gustav KlimtThe more practice, the better.

There. That’s my entire teaching on sex. Took two minutes of your time. Absolutely did not require an eight-part teaching series with a quadrillion facts and verses no one will remember from one week to the next.

Now, here’s my rant.

I’ve got to believe this megachurch would do their people a whole lot more good if they ditched the itching ears junk talk on sex and actually told people about Jesus. You with me on this?

I mean, there’s got to be people sitting in that church with little or no experience knowing Jesus, and instead of hearing about the Savior and seeing His resurrection life demonstrated by seasoned saints, they’re getting wink, wink, nudge, nudge talk on a topic we’re blasted with every stinking hour of the American day. Yet ask someone if Jesus is the only way to God and most will shrug and give you their duh face.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for sex and plenty of it. But as long as the people in our churches can’t get even the most basic facts about Jesus right, what the heck are we doing tossing out yet another off-topic teaching series on something that won’t get us any closer to the source of eternal life?

Married sex? Heck yeah! But Jesus even more.

Because having the Kama Sutra memorized isn’t going to get anyone past ol’ Saint Peter sitting in his guardhouse checkin’ that Book of Life.

Recognizing the Spiritual Child


No long discourse today, only a simple thought.

Watching my son’s soccer team play, I thought how easy it is for us to watch those five and six-year-olds knowing that they’re just kids. We lower our expectations as a result. Any sense of progress means the world to us.

My son’s ball handling’s come a long way. His defensive play is light-years better this spring than last fall. He scored two goals on Saturday, four over the course of eight games, because he’s got a better sense of the game and where the ball’s going. He’s broken through gaps and taken good shots that he would have ignored in the fall. Taking those baby steps...He’s greatly improved his play and I’m proud of him.

I realized walking off that field Saturday that we get such a glow out of our children when they make those baby steps of progress. Our expectations match their maturity level and seeing them do even one thing better means the world.

I also realized a greater truth.

We have low expectations for youngsters. We can look at someone and see that they are a child, then we adjust accordingly. How hard then to look at someone who appears to be an adult on the outside, yet is a child in the Faith. We don’t look hard enough for the spiritual child in them. We assume because they’re an adult on the outside that their faith matches that external appearance.

How much damage happens in the name of Christ because we make that assumption? We wouldn’t treat a five-year-old like a fifty-year-old in any other aspect of life, yet we all too readily will castigate the spiritual child for not being an adult.

I wish our spiritual eyes matched our physical ones. If we could see that a thirty-year-old Christian might only be a three-year-old in Christ, we’d act differently toward them, wouldn’t we? I hope we would, otherwise we would commit a sort of spiritual child abuse by asking of a spiritual child what he or she could not meet. Too often, we’d inflict punishment for a goal someone that young in the faith could not attain.

This week, think about the people you know who are Christians, especially the ones who are struggling in their faith. Many aren’t even to their spiritual teen years in maturity, yet we ask for adult responses from them, responses they have no reservoir of experience to pull from. Think about lowering your expectations and walking alongside them as a mentor or simply a more mature friend who cares.

Because children in the faith exist, and the best way for us to bring them to maturity is to recognize their inner spiritual child and help that child reach maturity in the proper fullness of time.