Sunday, February 7, 2010

Missional Gnosticism

Maybe I'm pinning for the days of summer. Riding my motorcycle with the wind whistling through my helmet (head protection trumps my hair blowing in the wind). Finding new places to explore in companionship with my husband and friends. Experiencing the sense of adventure that being on a motorcycle offers. I'm thinking a lot of riding these long winter days and in how they can be a great illustration for my current blogging on the missional lifestyle.

It is simply not possible to ride a motorcycle by just knowing all about them. You could be the most knowledgeable person on the planet when it comes to the physics, mechanics, and even riding finesse on a motorcycle. You can go to seminars and read all about the skills needed to be a great rider, but without ever getting on one and gaining the skill yourself, it is static knowledge at best. It's knowledge that doesn't get the bike out of the driveway.

There must be practice for anything to take root within us. Our faith in Christ is no different. The Kingdom principles are meant to be put into action. We simply cannot live within our heads. As much as we love to learn (not unlike our Greek forefathers), in the esteem and acquisition of more and more knowledge and inspirational messages, that is just not going to cut it! We are becoming fat with our knowledge and discussions. We are a gluttonous, and it's time for a workout!

We have this incredible fascination with knowledge. Our fixation in the church these last few decades has raised teachers, and the teaching gift itself, way above all the other gifts in the Body. We have neglected or a best sidelined, other gifts necessary for the Body of Christ to be functioning in fullness. Our tendency towards Gnosticism grows not only in the Body of Christ, but also as our culture aspires to greater and greater knowledge. We live in the day of experts!

We have some great teachers here in our area, famous for their gift, who draw people to their church solely on their teaching gift. Is that church or a school? I know people who want mainly to associate with those who have written books, are sought out as conference speakers, and known for their intelligence and teaching. I've heard folks say they wouldn't attend a conference if the speaker wasn't well known. Isn't this the favoritism we are warned against in the scriptures?
We almost seem to be addicted to the acquiring of knowledge and deceive ourselves that we never have enough of it. We are forming our profession of faith in Christ into a singular aspect; knowledge. Emphasizing this one area over all others.

It reminds me of an a old Star Trek episode, where the life form the Enterprise crew encountered in space was just one huge disassociated head. They had a heck of a time with this creature who ruled above everything with incredible pride, actually swelling larger all the time, and completely disassociated from a body. We are called a Body, connected together, where all parts are necessary for health and wholeness. In fact, we're told to esteem those parts that seem "less esteemed".

When I teach motorcycling, we teach one night of classroom information. Four hours of a very good introduction in the knowledge needed for the mental aspects of riding. And let me tell you the same thing I tell my students; that riding a motorcycle is 80% mental and 20% physical. You must be a "smart" rider, to ride well and for a long time.
However, the majority of training is spent on actually practicing the physical skills needed to ride. Putting the mental lessons into action.

Each lesson has a short teaching, then a demonstration of what we want the student to do, and then they spend the majority of time on practicing it themselves.

The skill is learned by doing it, not just knowing about it. When the basics of that skill are acquired, and that varies with individuals, we move on to the next lesson. We don't expect mastery, but the basics to be built upon in the future practicing of the skill.

Neil Cole likes to say that; "we are educated beyond our obedience".
The training Neil and Paul Kaak developed in Greenhouse, ( is set up as one weekend of teaching and scriptural exegesis, followed by a year of practice and application of it with monthly peer interaction and support. Not too dissimilar to our motorcycle training. The key is in the application. The practice of what we know.

The scriptures exhort our tendency for more information without application and says; "that we look into a mirror and then go away and forget", and "don't just be hearers of the word, but doers also." What most of us need is not more teaching, but to do something with what we already know!
That's what makes our faith real, and the essence of our proclamations having some credibility and authority. It's not a promotion of "works", or gaining the approval of God by "doing" something FOR Him! I am so tired of hearing people refer to obedience as works of flesh and legalism.
Our faith cannot be separated from our actions or it is no faith at all.

The scriptures say that Satan himself knows the scriptures and can quote them quite well. It is not enough to know what the Book says;, we must practice it! It is the reality of the day to day living out of what we profess that makes it count. There has to be application. Don't be deceived by thinking that learning is the end goal.

The journey in mission for His disciples is much more than gaining knowledge. You simply cannot read or discuss your way into a lifestyle of missional impact. Get out of your head, and go bring some application of your knowledge to those who need it. They are all around you. Go and make some disciples of Jesus, plant some of Him into the world, be the fragrance of Christ the Lord, whom we serve in joy, grace and privilege.


  1. Good word Katie! A few years ago I realized that I was constantly reading (lots of good godly writers)but I was just feeding my brain and not growing in grace. Knowledge in the Kingdom is also experienced by living from the heart and not just the brain. greg stynsberg

  2. Greg, what brought you to that revelation? Did the material just start getting dry, or was there a longing for something "more", or what? I'm curious to the process of people moving from head to heart (as you say).

    I'm often amazed that more people read books about God/Kingdom/etc. than the Book itself.

    Any thoughts on that?

  3. Great word, Katie! I would offer that right teaching is teaching that doesn't allow for a merely intellectual faith. Like your motorcycle training, teaching involves passing on knowledge and showing others how to DO it right.

  4. Spoken as a true equipper Ken! May your "tribe" increase and ride well!!!!

  5. This captures well the common trend to invert a small part of the Great Commission from "teaching them to observe all things," to "observe the teaching of them all."

    Gnosticism has at its core that God is unknowable and yet attempts to know Him through the acquisition of knowledge. Sounds to me like the definition of insanity.

    Knowing in scripture is always related to doing. Great Post!

  6. Insanity! Oh Michael, I totally agree! I would also add that it is incredibly arrogant to think our little pea brains could ever attempt to know God through acquisition of what we call "knowledge".
    Thanks for posting on my post!!! I'm honored brother.

  7. Agree with all comments here, Katie. The motorcycle is a great analogy for the way so many things in life work.

    Here's the address to the post you wanted me to link in here:

    As teaching gets recalibrated in scale, I believe it is being re-examined in form and nature as well. I think we're getting closer to returning to what teaching was in the Scriptures and is supposed to be today. David Watson had some interesting thoughts on three-tiers of disciple-making that I ran with from a "teaching" perspective and built upon here on my old church's blog:

    It has shaped for me how teaching is subservient to disciple-making -- not the other way around. You rock, Katie!

  8. Thanks Mike! I would encourage people to read the article Mike wrote for more in-depth thoughts on this subject by using the link above. He makes some great points in it.