“Knowledge is power,” or so they say.
It’s a good saying, except for the fact that life is much more complex. Sometimes knowledge empowers; other times it corrupts.
Since the beginning of time, people have struggled with specific temptations that accompany knowledge.
As leaders in the church, we are particularly vulernable to ‘knowledge-temptations’ because, after all, truth is the foundation for everything we do.
Let’s look at the temptations we face as pastors and church planters as well as some biblical solutions.
Temptation #1—Knowledge As Status
Adam and Eve had everything we all want—a knowledge that touched both head and heart while walking with the Great Teacher in the cool of the garden. Yet, it wasn’t enough.
The tempter teased them with a prickly promise, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Rather than finding status in their relationship with God who knew good and evil, Adam and Eve wanted that knowledge for themselves. Bottom line—they wanted God’s status; they wanted His throne. Turns out they thought knowledge is power too.
Leaders in Jesus’ church are privy to a lifetime of intimate details about others. Not only is this a humbling privilege, but a sacred responsbility accompanies the revealed mysteries of people’s lives.
Then, there’s the study of the leader—the acquisition of more and more knowledge about how to do ministry. Devouring books and blogs and conferences and learning cohorts can become an obsession.
If we’re not alert, we might be lulled by that primeval promise of the Devil—“You will be like God.”
The Solution—Love God and Others
We abuse knowledge, but rejecting it doesn’t solve our problem.
Our ability to learn is one of the ways we image God. Leaders are learners, or to put it another way—leaders are readers.
Knowledge isn’t the problem; we’re the problem.
So what’s the solution? Paul tells us it’s love.
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2
Pastor, who are you reading those books for—to develop your P.R. department because you love yourself? Or do you learn to serve the folks in your church because you love them?
Church planter, who are you going to the conference for—to impress your buddies on social media? Or do you learn to implement better strategies for your congregation?
Knowledge is a power God entrusts to leaders. How will we steward it?
Temptation #2—Knowledge Covers Shame
Have you ever opened your favorite social media platform, only to be overwhelmed by the need to catch up?
Have you ever nodded your head in a conversation to give the impression you know what someone is talking about, when in reality you have no clue?
Or, have you ever felt like a fool because someone left you out of the communication loop or worse—because you found out what others are saying about you behind your back?
If knowledge is power, then how can it make us feel so powerless? Because knowledge often reveals our shame—that we’re not good enough and we’re naked before God.
Adam and Eve’s new knowledge opened their eyes to see the truth about themselves, and hiding was the only thing they could do (3:7).
At this point, we do the unexpected. When knowledge pokes on our shame, we often turn to knowledge as a way to cover ourselves.
Feelings of inadequacy are attacked with a search for trees of knowledge to give us wisdom apart from Christ, because we want to forget the reality that we’re dust.
If I can master church planting or pastoring or counseling or worship leading or whatever it is I do—if I can just get it right—then I can feel in control living as if I’m not a small speck floating through a universe that’s so big it’s terrifying.
We idolize knowing it all because we’re just not comfortable with mystery, of which—I’m sorry to tell you—we are surrounded by as ministers of God’s grace.
And so, we fill our lives with distractions—often with distractions for Jesus’ Kingdom.
We stay up late filling our eyes and ears with new knowledge because like Adam and Eve we’re afraid—afraid of a God who sees us. Our fear won’t permit silence; so, we fill the void with anything and everything to drown out the voice of God.
Heaven help us when we begin to use podcasts, books and seminars as 21st Century fig leaves to cover the fact that we’re naked and afraid before our Maker.
The Solution—The Love of God for us
Paul concludes his famous chapter on love saying, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12
Because we are secure in the love of Christ, we don’t have to hide behind knowledge to cover our shame. We don’t have to be overwhelmed or embarrassed when we don’t know something. Because we’re loved, we can say, I don’t know, but I know Jesus.
One day we will see Him, and then all will be clear. Until then, pastors and church planters, rest in not-knowing everything because the all-knowing God loves you. Your job isn’t on the line and neither is your identity. Rest in the love of God.
The Most Important Knowledge
Listen to how Jesus described salvation.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” – John 17:3
Are you substituting knowledge about Jesus with knowledge of Jesus?
You can’t fake your relationship with God forever, pastors and church planters. Yes, you can get away with it for a while, but before long the soul-decay will set in and you’ll find yourself needing something eternal to save you.
Friends, take a deep breath. In Jesus, God is for you. You don’t have to get it right. You don’t have to know it all. In fact, you don’t even have to know half of it all. All you need is Jesus—know Him deeply, and share Him often.