I’m surprised how much listening and reading we are expected to do as Christians.
- Listen to a sermon each week – 35-45 minutes
- Read from the Bible each day – 15-30 minutes
- Listen to people read Bible verses and sing songs at church – 60 minutes
- Attend a weekly mid-week service, small group, or youth group – 30-60 minutes
- Listen to podcasts of even more sermons – 60-90 minutes per week
Is the Christian life just about listening and reading or is it supposed to be about learning?
Because if it’s about learning– I don’t learn very much by listening and reading in other areas of my life.
- I have only read 1-2 books and maybe watched a couple of television shows about parenting, but I’ve learned how to parent.
- Outside of the Bible, I can’t think of any non-fiction book I’ve finished… ever. I start books but never finish them.
- I go to a job each day where I learn lots each day, and I’ve never read a book or listening to a lecture on almost any of it. “On the job training” has defined my work life.
- I’m learning how to garden, but I haven’t read a book about it and I wouldn’t even know where to start to find a lecture about it.
On and on. In most areas of my life I learn mostly by doing and almost never by sitting passively and listening or reading the same book over and over again.
The Christian life is so passive. It is repulsive. We believe all of the right things and act on none of it.
Who is all of this instruction for?
The people hearing it or the person teaching it?
If I’m honest, I learn way more when I’m asked to teach from the Bible than I do if I just sit on my hands for 30 minutes and listen. And yet pastors teach and everyone else is expected to just listen… and even if we learn something no one is ever going to ask us to put it into action, nor follow-up with us, nor hold us accountable. Each Sunday is a new data dump. There will never be a test. We’ll never be asked to write papers. No one ever asks us if we are actually learning.
If the Christian life were a class– church is the lecture series we audit.
Did Jesus die so I could go to church and listen to sermons I’ll never put into action?
Is that what we really believe? All of the empirical evidence seems to point to that. Our systematic theology says no, but our practical theology says yes.
For all the messages that have been preached to me, the thousands of hours of Bible study, and the thousands of hours of mid-week teaching I’ve received you’d think, the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into me– at some point, someone would look at me and say, “Dude, you know everything you need to know. Get out of here and live this stuff. Stop learning and start doing!”
That’s never going to happen. Why? Because we measure passive activity and mislabel it as success. We lie to ourselves by rewarding the wrong people, we label passive reception of God’s word as good, and putting the Word to action is tertiary.
It’s not supposed to be this way.
James, who knew Jesus’ teaching well, was right. He addressed this danger directly.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Get out and live the Gospel. Stop learning and start acting on what you’ve learned.
Jesus didn’t die for you so that you could go to church and hear people preach. Of course you don’t believe that.