One of the recent struggles that I've entered into in my view of the church is the knowledge vs. service war that rages throughout many communities of faith. Most people aren't aware of this war, but it exists, and it is fought on many fronts. I deal with it all the time. People come to me - well meaning people - and they tell me that they're not getting enough out of their Bible study time, and they need more solid teaching. They seem particularly distraught when, on certain weeks of the year, we emphasize service more than Bible knowledge. There is a fight at this point, and it's usually characterized by a passive/aggressive attitude that smiles at the idea of service, but sneers at the loss of Bible study.
I guess I have trouble seeing where the two are mutually exclusive. What you know, you are required to act upon, and in so doing, you usually gain more knowledge than you ever could in a classroom environment. Protestantism has been largely defined by individual practices of holiness: reading your Bible, prayer, "quiet times", and moral behavior. Unfortunately, these practices have led to a myopic view of faith, and have resulted in a selfish attitude toward service.
But isn't knowing God more defined by a life that is generous with its knowledge of God? How can we know God and be miserly with the riches of His goodness? How in the world can the knowledge of God be a completely individual discipline? It seems to me that if we wanted to know God more, we'd practice serving as many people as we could. That, after all, is what the crucifixion - God's ultimate act of service - was all about.
One of my classes (Life Together) pleasantly surprised me the other night when they decided to forego their normal class lecture for a group act of service. They each brought shoe boxes to class and filled them with all sorts of loving gifts and treats. They spent their entire class time decorating these boxes and filling them with a couple of size 12 doses of love. Their goal was to help with the Operation Christmas Child project, which gave 7.6 million shoe boxes to children in 95 different countries last year. Instead of clamoring for another lecture, this class decided to put all those lectures into practice by spending their valuable class time serving those who have nothing. If that's not knowledge of the divine, I don't know what is!
Thanks, Life Together, for modeling what it means to be knowledgeable Christians. You're winning the war one act of service at a time!