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. 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.