061: Mission-Minded Family

As disciples of Jesus, we are all missionaries, sent to proclaim salvation in Jesus! However, talking to others about faith can be intimidating for many adults. So, what should our expectations be for our kids? What about children who do not believe? How can we center our family and our purpose in God’s love for us? On this episode, Rachel sits down with Lance Lawson and Jason Norcross to discuss these questions and more.

Resources:

Children’s Ministry Curriculum & Resources

Clear Creek Children YouTube Channel

Who’s in the Bible: A Podcast for Kids

“Few American Teens Share the Gospel. Here’s How to Help Them” by Joe Carter

 

Was it for Me?

As the pandemic waxes and wanes over the next several months, Clear Creek Community Church has begun returning to in-person worship services. Some individuals and families have returned while others are still waiting. As we each approach this “return to normalcy” in our own time and according to our own safety and needs, we benefit from taking a moment to examine our relationship with collective worship. When we each return is a less important question than why we return. And the type of experience we return to will forever be less important than the way we worship God with our daily lives.

In Zechariah chapter 7, we read that emissaries from Bethel arrived in Jerusalem with a question for the priests. More than 70 years prior, after the Babylonians invaded and conquered Judah, the people of Bethel had begun fasting and mourning during the fifth month of every year. It had become a tradition during the difficult time when regular worship at the temple was unavailable. At this point in the story, however, the exiles were returning. The temple and city of Jerusalem were back under construction. The question brought to the priests in Jerusalem was, “Should we continue?”

It appeared to be a legitimate concern. Now that things were returning to normal, did they need to keep up their ritual mourning? It was not one of God’s prescribed feasts or celebrations. Yet, God had been faithful to return the Hebrews to their promised land and the people were grateful.

God’s reply through Zechariah cut to the heart of worship:

“Was it for me that you fasted?”

– Zechariah 7:5

He then added, “When you eat and drink, is that not done for yourselves?”

To the people of Bethel, God sent a message: render justice, show kindness and mercy to one another, and assist the lonely and needy among you. In other words, if you do not live for me, no religious practice is going to make you right with me.

Interestingly, God never told the emissaries from Bethel to stop fasting. But, he did tell them a lot about what they were neglecting that was even more important. They had forgotten the true focus of their worship, and instead gotten carried away with their own agenda of the what, when, and how.

When the exiles returned to Judah, that was a big deal. There was excitement and worry: excitement for the return and worry about how long it would last. There were still dangers lurking on every side, just as COVID-19 is still present with us during our return.

Coming back together for face-to-face worship services is a big deal, too. Many people are very excited about it, and they have reason to be. Others are more hesitant, and they have reason to be as well.

In our joy to see one another again, let us not forget why we return, why we worship, and the importance of worshiping the one true God, continually.

Singing through a mask may not be the most enjoyable way to sing. Children in the worship service may seem distracting. And there’s not even coffee to gather around before or after the service. Restrictions are frustrating. Change is difficult.

But, despite these challenges, we must resist making worship about our needs and preferences. True worship looks outside of ourselves to God who is worthy of our praise and to the needs of those around us. It isn’t about us. It unites and does not divide. It places into perspective why coming together is so critical to our spiritual health. The habits, routines, and practices we have developed over the past months of online worship — and even those traditions we practice in person — are meaningless if they are only to serve us.

We must focus on who it is we worship, and what he calls us to be, think, and do.

 

So, in this time of reunion, let us not neglect to show kindness and mercy to those who still need online service and those who are with us on site. Let us not stop seeking justice for the needy and oppressed.

Like the people of Jerusalem who were rebuilding the temple, we’ve all longed to gather together again and worship God freely. Through Jesus, we live in intimate, personal relationship with God, no matter our circumstances or locations. Through Jesus, we never have to fear separation from God, for eternity.

So, let’s rejoice as we begin to meet in person again, but let us not forget the reason we gather in the first place.


 

In His Image

The pro-life story starts where they all start…

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

One of the first things we learn about God is that he is the creator of everyone and everything. He takes the chaotic, formless, empty, and darkness and begins to create. He takes what is chaotic and brings order. He takes the turmoil and brings peace. He takes what is dark and makes it light.

And the crowning moment of his creation is mankind: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” And it was “very good.”

God made humans in his image to represent him in this new world, to further the kingdom and rule of the Creator. Being made in his image means that every single human being has value, dignity and worth simply because of who their creator is. It’s a value that no one can give or take away.

Living into our true value informs our purpose and identity here on earth. Just like the creator we represent, we are also called to bring light, peace and life to all that is dark and chaotic.

So, how does this intersect with the pro-life movement?

Pro-life should not just be something we talk about as a political weapon. It should be a high value for all citizens of God’s kingdom all the time. We love and value life, and therefore, we should not think that the circumstances surrounding conception need ever determine the value or worth of any human life. We love the mother. We love the father. We love the child. And we long to fight for them, alongside them, and to one day welcome them into the safe, loving, and supportive family of God.

Several years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I began volunteering at the Center for Pregnancy. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides resources (including material, emotional, and spiritual support during pregnancy and through the first year of a child’s life) free of charge to anyone in the community.

I always had a heart for the pro-life movement but during my time at the Center for Pregnancy, my eyes were opened to so much I hadn’t seen before.

Many of our clients were caught in cycles of abuse and neglect, facing the overwhelming news of pregnancy with inadequate financial, emotional, and family support. Their choices were often based on fear of rejection or condemnation, helplessness, and feeling unable to survive on their own, let alone bring a child into their current situation. They would often walk in with a heavy load of loneliness, confusion, stress, doubt, anxiety and fear, and yet somehow that would all be mixed with joy and wonder. Many earnestly questioned whether or not they had permission to be excited about the new life growing in them.

The clients became my dear friends as I watched their bellies grow week by week. I felt their babies kick and then got to hold those babies in my arms.

I learned so much during my time there, but more, something actually changed inside of me. I realized that being pro-life was bigger than just being anti-abortion. Being pro-life means we are champions and advocates for the physically, emotionally, and sexually abused; the impoverished, the hungry, the single moms, the orphans, the victims of sex trafficking, the poor, the weak – all who are most vulnerable.

In the heated political climate we find ourselves in, the issue is often portrayed as either supporting the woman or supporting the unborn baby. But as Christians, we know this is not an either/or issue. It’s a both/and. We respect women and we respect the baby. We cannot water down the pro-life movement by confining it to political platforms, because it’s bigger than that. This is a kingdom issue.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the rights of the poor and needy.”

– Proverbs 31:8-9

For women who have walked the road of abortion, sometimes just hearing the word can trigger unbearably painful memories and emotions that feel impossible to escape. But as a church, we are called to have the utmost compassion for anyone who has experienced this life-altering pain.

If that’s you, I pray that today you can take a step in your journey of recovery and healing by hearing the unchanging truth of the Gospel. I would encourage you to embark on a journey to meet your Creator who knows everything you have ever done, sees you at your very worst, and still loves you with a compassionate, patient, and merciful love.

If you already know the love of Christ, I pray you will preach the Gospel to yourself today and every day by resting in his grace. No sin is greater than the love of God. Our mistakes cannot outrun the unending fountain of grace he offers. The gospel is offered to all of us, even though none of us deserve it.

For anyone whose life hasn’t been touched in some way by abortion, I pray that you would be an encouragement and strength for those whose have. I pray that you would meet physical, material needs as you can, and that you would continually lead men, women, and children to the only one who can mend these deepest of hurts.

God’s light will always shine brightest in the deepest darkness. May we be people who reflect that light wherever we go.


 

5 Ways to Love Teachers

Teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the best of times. Teachers have to meet high expectations, often provide their own supplies, work early, and stay late. They love and counsel kids in addition to instructing them.

 

The restrictions and changes wrought by the pandemic have created an even more challenging and stressful environment for teachers. Many feel overwhelmed and under-supported. Class lists and rules are constantly changing, they are expected to fill even more roles, and many end up staying up late each night just to figure out how to adequately serve their students and meet expectations.

 

Teachers love what they do, but many are hurting, discouraged, and tired, especially right now. So, how can we come alongside them? How can we show them the patience and love of Christ when they are struggling?

 

I spoke with some of our teachers and they shared a few ways we can love and serve the teachers in our community today:

 

  1. Empathize

 

Teachers are trying to stay positive and make the best out of challenging circumstances, but things really are difficult and your empathy can go a long way. Know they are working more than they ever have, and believe that they care about your kids more than they can say. A simple way to show you understand their situation is to keep your kids at home if they are sick. Many teachers are worried about their own health, and showing them that you understand and appreciate their position is a simple and powerful display of empathy.

 

  1. Support

 

Teachers can always use help with school supplies, but right now that need is even greater. Ask your teachers if they have a wish list and then send them something with a supportive note. If you don’t have children in school, call a Title 1 school and find out what their needs are right now. Many schools and teachers are constantly running low on PPE and other pandemic supplies like hand sanitizer and Ziploc bags. Sending these necessities can ease one burden your teacher is facing this week.

 

  1. Stay Positive

 

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or  student, there is no doubt you will experience your own disappointment this fall. However, despite your frustrations, please do not post negative comments on social media. Before you post, or send an email, take time to think about the content and your tone. An angry or accusatory email can truly ruin a teacher’s week. It is always okay to try to make changes or ask for clarification, but just be careful and kind with your words.

 

  1. Encourage

 

Sharing a little love and appreciation will always encourage your teachers, and there are so many ways to do it. You can show your appreciation for their hard work by sending a coffee or lunch. Or maybe craft a quick email to acknowledge who they are and the great job they are doing. Little things matter: cookies, flowers, cards, or simply an encouraging word can change your teacher’s day.

 

  1. Pray

 

Teachers need our prayers now more than ever, so let’s cover them with constant prayer. Let’s pray for their safety and health. Let’s pray that they can find joy in their work. Let’s pray that they will learn to give themselves grace when they make mistakes and cannot do it all. Let’s pray that they find time for rest and fun. Let’s pray that they would know Jesus and rely on him now as they never have before.

 

 

Father, would you help us to love and serve our teachers well. We pray that they experience your love and protection during this season through our church community. We pray that they remember why they love to teach and that it would sustain them when teaching is really difficult. We also pray that they would be surrounded by encouragement and support as they navigate these uncertain and stressful times. Open our eyes to see opportunities to love and serve them daily. We pray that they would experience your presence and your peace, and find rest in your Son.

 

**Thank you to teachers, Sarah Paulk, Jennefer Arrington, Kirstyn Bullington, and Dalena Ryskoski for their contributions to this article.

059: The Fight Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking, or modern day slavery, is one of the darkest realities in our world; a reality that we hope to bring light to as Christians. But how? In this episode, Rachel Chester talks to Kirsta Melton and Mallory Vincent – two attorneys who have been fighting this battle for decades – about what human trafficking looks like, where it is found, and how we can be part of the solution.

Resources:

www.JusticeStartsNow.org

 

Anger on the Sidewalk: Handling Outrage in a God-Honoring Way

I hate to admit it, but I regularly have the discouraging experience of plummeting from amicable pedestrian to hyper-angry maniac.

I can feel my heart rate increasing and my blood pressure going up with it. Indignation burns like a fire in my gut. I want to chew nails, call down curses, slash tires, and scream obscenities.

There it is, right in the middle of the sidewalk. Left there by some inconsiderate, lazy person who evidently thinks they are alone in the world. There it is, smelly and disgusting.

I am immediately outraged.

In an instant, I morph from enjoying a pleasant run to fuming with internal rage.

It happens every time I’m on a trail or a sidewalk and I come across a pile of dog doo, left there by some uncaring pet owner who, I suppose, thinks it’s appropriate to leave a pile so every walker, runner, cyclist, and stroller-pushing mom can walk around it or step in it.

Every time – no exaggeration, every single time – it makes me angry.

I’ve been griping about this for years, mostly in my own head, because most of the time there’s no one around to share the details of how severely I would punish those dog owners.

A sanitized glimpse into the dark monologue in my mind goes like this:

Who do they think they are? Why are they so lazy? Why don’t they think about everyone else who uses this sidewalk? They should have to clean up every sidewalk in League City. They should have to eat it. They should be executed in front of their dog…

I can carry on like that in my head for miles. Sometimes, all I remember about an otherwise pleasant run through a park is my angry monologue. When I get home, I often share parts of my monologue with my wife. She has to hear me present the evidence, convict, and execute the guilty.

But, there is a parallel monologue going on in my head, too.

While I’m venting my internal rage on dog owners, another voice is whispering, “Dude, relax. Take a pill. Why do you let this bug you so much?”

Admittedly, I know my angry internal monologue is not constructive. But, I am not calm and rational when I am angry. Besides, there’s something about indulging in your anger that feels kind of satisfying in the moment. The angry monologue dominates the conversation.

I guess because my small group has been reading a book about anger, I had a strange and repugnant thought occur to me as I approached a pile of dog doo on the sidewalk recently. It was weird and unwelcome and immediately rejected.

The thought I had was, You should stop and clean it up.

That weird thought just added a victim’s dimension to my monologue.

Why should I have to clean up their mess? Why should I be inconvenienced because of their stupidity? Why should I pay the price for their willing, premeditated, inconsiderate gesture? Why?

That one repugnant thought made everything worse because I could never get it out of my head. From that moment on, every time I’d see a pile of dog doo, I’d have my normal angry monologue but with an added side dish of… guilt.

“Why should I?” thinking doesn’t sound like guilt, but it usually is.

You keep asking yourself, “Why should I?” because something inside you knows you should. It makes sense. Anger and guilt are partners. Each produces the other, and each is a consequence of the other. So, I think it’s just easier to claim victim status than to address the possible merits of the repugnant thought.

It’s troubling to admit that I can be so angry and guilty. I’ve known for a long time that anger and guilt are poison to a person’s soul.  It’s also troubling because anger and guilt are almost impossible to rid one’s self of, because the reasons for outrage are often legitimate. A lot of times, anger seems like a fair and productive response in the moment. So, we negotiate with our guilt by rehashing why our anger is justified. We go round and round with ourselves and end up where we started: angry and guilty. That’s me when it comes to dog doo on the sidewalk and, unfortunately, in many, more significant moments.

Think about the situations you routinely encounter that make you mad. There are dozens of little everyday annoyances that start some familiar, angry monologue.

You might not see it, but the monologue in your head seeps out. It spills out onto your spouse, your kids, your peers at work, and even the kid bagging your groceries at the store.

Those little routine angry monologues are like tiny drops of poison. Each one seems harmless, but they are not mutually exclusive events. They aggregate into who you are. They are seeds of destructive things: bitterness, gossip, and deceit.

Your anger is quite possibly the most destructive thing about you. It poisons your own heart and then poisons the people around you. But, it’s also the most obvious place for the most obvious growth.

Real growth, especially spiritual growth, is inevitably painful, and often very hard, because the only way to truly repent is to put into practice strange and repugnant thoughts like, You stop and clean it up.

I say painful because if you are like me, you don’t want to.

The book my group has been reading is Good and Angry by David Powlison. In it, the author writes that everyone gets angry, and we very often have legitimate reasons to be angry. The question is, will we respond to our anger in a way that produces good?

That is a humbling, pain-producing, and potentially life-changing question.

Will I respond to my anger in a way that produces good?

Not long ago I was out for an early morning walk. I came upon a pile of dog doo some clown left right smack in the middle of the sidewalk. I immediately opened up the monologue.

“Why are dog owners so lazy? Why don’t they….”

Then I stopped.

I took a deep (mental) breath and asked myself how I could respond to my anger in a way that produced good.

I stood there for several minutes because I didn’t like the only answer I had to the question. I knew just stopping the judgmental monologue running through my mind would not be enough. Avoiding a wrong is not the same as doing something good. Just avoiding a wrong is the very thing that sustains us in our anger and guilt. Telling yourself not to be angry is not the answer, that’s just laying the foundation for getting angry again the next time the same thing happens.

If you want to change and you want to grow, there is only one thing to do.

I made myself do it. I went and found something to use to scoop the poop and put it in a trash can.

I had a different conversation in my head for the rest of that walk through the park. I thought about how I actually just served some other people – the walkers, runners, cyclists, and stroller-pushing moms. I was glad. I responded to my anger by doing something good.  It was much more satisfying than rehashing my angry monologue. I know no one else will probably ever know or care, but I do.

Then, I decided that I was going to do it again and even try to make a habit out of being the dog doo remover guy. A simple, very minor, sacrifice is changing how I respond to my anger. Now I think about how making a micro sacrifice of time and energy benefits some unsuspecting person who won’t have to clean a disgusting mess off their shoe.

It’ still exasperating to me to find dog doo on the sidewalk, but now my anger (usually) results in something productive, not oppressive. It is weirdly satisfying to know the sidewalk is a better place after I used it.

Isn’t that how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live?

I know dog poo is a trivial example. I have many more sinister angers that I must address, and so do you. But they all need the same medicine.

At some point, you have to absorb the cost of some other person’s failure.

You have to pay a personal price because someone else was inconsiderate and selfish, or maybe just forgetful.

At some point, you have to figure out how you can do something that is good, and good for other people.

Then, you have to do it.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

John 15:12-14


 

058: Returning to In-Person Worship Services

Beginning October 11, all Clear Creek Community Church campuses will return to in-person worship services! What will it be like? What about those who aren’t ready to return? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Yancey Arrington and Aaron Lutz about what they’ve learned over the last 217 days since the last services, what they’re excited about, and how we can remain unified even though not everyone is ready to return.

Resources:

Episode 035: The Blessings and Dangers of Technology When Everything Goes Online

5 Ways to Live in the Present in a Future-Oriented World

The past hundred years have seen advancements in science, technology, medicine, warfare, and industry that would have boggled the mind of those in the past. And the pace of change is not slowing down. We are conditioned to a rapid rate of discovery, to Moore’s Law, to a craving for faster internet speeds, and the rush to a better future.

A pandemic confined us to our homes, but we are still asking, “When will schedules return to normal? When will school, work, and church resume?” And while waiting, our internet connections have sped up and the future of videoconferencing is now behind us.

In such a future-focused world, how do we find time to live in the present? And, really, why would we? Wouldn’t that just leave us behind, unprepared for what’s next?

Scripture acknowledges the benefits of planning for the future (Proverbs 21:5), but Jesus directs our future-oriented selves heavenward and encourages us not to worry so much about tomorrow (Matthew 6:19-34). God says plenty about living in the present and letting the future take care of itself (Proverbs 16:3, 9; 19:21; Matthew 6:33).

Here are five practical ways to live fully in the present moment:

 

1. Pause

Be still and know that I am God!

– Psalm 46:10

You don’t have to stop. Just pause. Watch the sunset. Take a moment to study the smile of your loved one. Enjoy the pitter patter of the rain. See if you can spot joy in a crowd, or evidence of God at work in your daily routines.

In Exodus 33:14, God tells his people, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Really? Standing in the midst of over half a million people, animals, tents, crying children, blowing sand, rocky terrain, and nothing but desert between where they were and their “future”? Yet God declares that acknowledging his presence will give his people rest in the midst of an uncertain future.

Today, lack of a vaccine or loss of income or separation from others may be causing anxiety and a rush to see the future “return to normalcy” realized. Know that you can live in the present and be at peace. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,” (Psalm 62:5).

2. Appreciate

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:5-7

Gratitude is a great gift. You can’t be thankful for what hasn’t happened yet — that is called hope. Instead, we say “thanks” for what is and for what has been. We show appreciation to others and to God when their past and present actions are a blessing to us. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Psalm 34:8).

Do you eat slowly, savoring every bite? Or are you like your children asking, “What are we eating for dinner?” while still eating lunch? Taste and see are present-tense verbs. They are something we are commanded to do in the here and now. Experience God’s goodness and grace for “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing,” (Psalm 34:10).

 

3. Worship

God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

– John 4:24

How are you really feeling? Be honest. Get in touch with your present emotions and sing them out to God. Write them in your journal. Pray. All of these worshipful expressions connect us to the God who is present with us — Emmanuel.

God is aware of your situation. As the Israelites traveled through the desert, God promised them he would give them rest, but they spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness because they refused to trust in God. Living in the present doesn’t necessitate denying hard circumstances, but it does require us to pause (1 Peter 5:7), appreciate (Colossians 3:16), and worship in truth (Psalm 55:6). Only when we are honest with God can we truly learn to trust him in the present.

 

4. Serve

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

– Galatians 6:2

You can’t control the future. You may try, setting aside money for an inheritance for example, but there is only so much you can do.

One way to reconnect with the here and now is to serve someone who needs you today. Meet a need that is evident and within your circle of influence. There are numerous examples from Scripture reminding us of the value of serving others. For instance, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God,” (Hebrews 13:16). Or, 1 John 3:18 which says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

While you are serving someone, it is difficult if not impossible to be preoccupied with your own future. There is a satisfaction that resonates in the present moment of giving away some of the abundance we have in Christ.

 

5. Connect

In humility, value others above yourselves.

– Philippians 2:3

Who have you neglected to connect with because of your “to do” list? What is still “yet to be done” on your calendar?

Lists are great at organizing our future time and helping us set priorities, but sometimes relationships suffer as a result of a task-oriented day.

Want to live in the present? Spend a few minutes more than you had planned on the phone with a distant relative. Text back and forth with an old friend. Meet someone for coffee or lunch. A true “future-oriented” person never regrets time spent with friends and loved ones because those opportunities are so precious and fleeting.

 

Like riding on a bullet train, we are fast approaching the future. Know that for a moment, the scene inside that train can seem still, even serene. You can pause, be thankful, worship truthfully, serve someone riding with you, and connect with a fellow traveler before returning your gaze to the blur outside the window.


 

What Expert? The Call to Seek (and Not Subvert) Wisdom

Imagine at your annual health checkup that some test numbers look concerning. Upon further examination, the doctor gives you the news that you are in early stages of a specific type of cancer, and while serious, she doesn’t appear overly concerned.

But before the physician can utter another word you look squarely into her eyes and confidently say, “Okay doc, here’s what we’re going to do about my treatment.” You then proceed to inform her about the vitamins you’re going to take, the exercises you’re going to do at the gym, and the food you’re going to eat.

Your doctor’s expression turns from mild concern to outright shock.

Most oncologists would be flabbergasted to hear patients informing them about what they believed were better protocols for their illnesses. And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could share real stories of patients who actually rejected their medically professional protocols because those patients “knew better.”

This scenario illustrates what author and professor Dr. Tom Nichols refers to as “the death of expertise.” He argues that Americans have moved the idea of democracy from being a condition of political equality (e.g., every person gets one vote) to a state of actual equality “in which every opinion is a good as any other on almost any subject under the sun.” This means believing that your personal attitude about anything is equal to, and as authoritative as, anyone else’s, even if that anyone happens to be an expert who has devoted his or her life to studying that subject upon which you are opining about.

So, who cares what world-class oncologists have to say about the best way to treat this specific cancer. Some patients read an article on Facebook or some alt-whatever news site that claimed eating 50 pounds of blueberries a week would kill the disease (of course, it also had stories to prove it).

From political attacks on TV to Twitter-wars about theology to Facebook fights on medical issues, Nichols surveys our national discourse and observes (and forgive me, this is long, but it’s so good):

We no longer have those principled and informed arguments. The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of “uninformed,” passed “misinformed” on the way down, and is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong.” People don’t just believe dumb things; they actively resist further learning rather than let go of those beliefs…

At the root of all this is an inability among laypeople to understand that experts being wrong on occasion about certain issues is not the same thing as experts being wrong consistently on everything. The fact of the matter is that experts are more often right than wrong, especially on essential matters of fact. And yet the public constantly searches for the loopholes in expert knowledge that will allow them to disregard all expert advice they don’t like…

Worse, what I find so striking today is not that people dismiss expertise, but that they do so with such frequency, on so many issues, and with such anger. Again, it may be that attacks on expertise are more obvious due to the ubiquity of the Internet, the undisciplined nature of conversation on social media, or the demands of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. But there is a self-righteousness and fury to this new rejection of expertise that suggest, at least to me, that this isn’t just mistrust or questioning or the pursuit of alternatives: it is narcissism, coupled to a disdain for expertise as some sort of exercise in self-actualization.¹

Consequently, in light of all that Nichols examines, he offers a stark challenge and sobering conclusion: “The relationship between experts and citizens is not ‘democratic.’ All people are not, and can never be, equally talented or intelligent. Democratic societies, however, are always tempted to this resentful insistence on equality, which becomes oppressive ignorance if given its head.”²

This is the danger of the death of expertise, of believing that everyone’s opinion is just as weighty, authoritative, and correct as anyone else’s. The only prize we win is oppressive ignorance, a refusal to see what’s true or best that leads us to our own dismay if not demise. Oppressive ignorance is a patient telling one’s oncologist how to do his or her job best or a thousand other examples of people telling experts they don’t know what they’re talking about. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s less a recipe for elitism but more for disaster that leaves us not with coalition of decisionmakers but a confederacy of dunces.

This kind of thinking (and living) should be a far cry from those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Scripture guards us from oppressive ignorance by continually calling believers to surround themselves with the wise (i.e., experts) so they might…wait for it…deposit their wisdom into us so that we might be wise and live wisely!

In fact, the Bible dedicates an entire book to encouraging believers to be community of wisdom instead of a confederacy of dunces. Here is just a sampling:

  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
  • “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:7)
  • “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
  • “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20)
  • “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)
  • “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth.” (Proverbs 24:3-7)

Seeking wisdom doesn’t give a blank check to believe everything the wise say. It doesn’t mean they are infallible. You and I both know that. We listen to the wise not because they are perfect but because they are experts in one issue or another. They possess a knowledge and experience base that we don’t, and as such, are valuable resources for making better decisions when we cross paths with those issues in the future. This is why Scripture is so high on seeking wisdom. It honors both the Creator and the creation he made. It’s the smart and biblical thing to do.

Let’s return to our opening illustration and reveal that the reason the doctor initially wasn’t distraught by the patient’s cancer discovery is because she trusts this kind of cancer is highly curable. How can she know that? It’s because she (an expert) also knows that medical researchers and scientists (also experts), over the past several decades, have developed medicines and treatments that will give patients a 98 percent chance of full remission. That’s the wisdom she possesses. All you need to do at this point is leverage her wisdom by listening, learning, and applying that wisdom. While that might not make you wise in all things, it definitely makes you smart in this scenario.

Will there be times that the wisdom we are given contradicts the wisdom of God? Sure. In those cases, we hold fast to godly wisdom and Christ, in whom are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3),³ as its ultimate expression. As 2 Corinthians 5:13 says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” However, generally speaking, as followers of Jesus we should be known as humble folk who pursue the wisdom around us.

We don’t revile the wise.

We seek them out.

If in certain scenarios we happen to be the experts in the room, then humility should mark us all the more. Either way, we should live lives that honor experts and leverage the wisdom they give (and that we seek!) so that we might make better, and yes, even more God-honoring decisions than we would without it.

This isn’t just smart, it’s spiritual.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

– Proverbs 4:7


¹ Nichols, The Death of Expertise, x-xi.

² Ibid, 238.

³ I encourage you to read my friend Jeff Medder’s blog about Jesus as our wisdom in his brief post Wisdom Is A “Who” More Than A “What”

This also provides an impetus for followers of Jesus pursuing learning and education.


 

057: Christians in Sports

Whether you are an athlete, a fan, or a parent coaching soccer on the weekends, sports are a constant in our world. They bring us joy, discipline, and some of our most meaningful relationships, but they can also present challenges as disciples of Jesus. On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with former Texas A&M baseball player John Scheschuk and former sports journalist Jon Coffey about the great gifts of sports and how to navigate the obstacles they bring.

Resources:

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

The Discipline of Christian Disciplines