“When Jesus gathered the twelve disciples he communicated with them orally. Likewise the crowds who heard him came without notebooks and left without paperback copies of ‘The Good News According to Jesus’. They simply had to retain his message by applying it to their daily lives, memorizing it and retelling it.” Arthur G. Patzia
Recently I bought a thumb drive. It’s a flash memory portable hard drive that is the size and shape of a human thumb. It comes in storage capacities ranging from 16mb to 1G. Plug it into your USB port and you are up and running. The data transfer is good enough to run some programmes. At least mine was. (It’s a Twinhead.) I now run my email from the thumb drive. For security purposes I just remove my thumb drive and no one can read my email on my computer. And for short trips I just take the thumb drive with me instead of my notebook computer. If I need to check my mail or work on some documents I just look for any pc with a USB port. As you can guess I am pretty pleased with my new storage medium/toy.
I am also hit afresh at the vast and constantly growing types of storage media now available — ranging from the soon to be obsolete floppy, to zips, CDs, DVDs, various multimedia stuff like scan disks and memory sticks, and now the thumb drive. I guess the overwhelming amount of information available today demands ever greater types of storage media of ever increasing capacity.
Round about the time I bought my thumb drive I also picked up the book, “The Emerging Church” by Arthur G. Patzia. The statement quoted above hit me like a Tyson uppercut. It reminded me afresh that few in the early church had any sort of personal storage media much less their own copies of the bible. This was pre Gutenberg time.
Because they had no where else to store their knowledge of God’s Word they had to store in their hearts, “applying it to their daily lives, memorizing it and retelling it.” This was the generation of Christians who shook the known world of their time and converted an empire.
By contrast many Christians today own more than one bible each. And we have access to all sorts of information storage media. At Christian meetings, PDAs, laptop computers, voice recorders etc are seen, in addition to the more traditional notebooks and files, as ways of recording what is being taught.
We end up therefore with a humongous amount of truth in our drives, notebooks, CDs etc. I am haunted by one question – how much of that truth actually makes its way into our hearts? And if it does not make its way into our hearts does it really matter?
I believe there is a specific rate of data transfer from the external world to our heads, and from our heads into our hearts. This process cannot be rushed and it does not happen by autopilot. We need to intentionally set aside time and attention to hear the Living Word address us through the written word. And time is the one thing that we have little of in today’s world.
So we end up listening to one sermon after another, going to one seminar after another, and ending up with lots of data in various information storage media. But our lives remain dry, untouched, untransformed.
I strongly believe that we should pay equal attention to helping our people internalize the truth, and not just help them to know the truth. For example, if I were to run a bible conference, I wouldn’t spend every minute of the conference on bible teaching. I would ensure there were adequate time for personal reflection and small group work, opportunities for people to work out the implications of what they have learnt. At the very least they should have begun the journey of applying what they have learnt before they leave the conference. I am assuming that if this is not done the majority of the folks will go home to their busy lives with another well annotated Conference Handbook to put on their shelf next to their handbooks from other conferences. They just get plugged back into life as usual post-conference.
In the parable of the two builders, Jesus warns us that the person who built his house on shifting sand also knew the word. But he didn’t obey it. (Matthew 7: 24-27)
We live at a time when all of us are inundated with information. God’s Word can easily be submerged within the rest of the ‘bits’.
I feel so strongly he Spirit calling out to us:
“Build your lives on solid rock. Take time for My truth to enter your hearts. The storms are raging. The flood is rising.”
He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying.