Without the presence of relational and intentional interpreters, information, even the best information, remains inert.
I love books. I gush when I talk about them and nearly jump with excitement when someone asks for a book recommendation. I devour them and treasure them. If I am honest, I tend to hoard them. Our house is quite literally littered with them.
But books aren’t enough, even the most gospel-centered, Christ-exalting books. I have to remind myself this on a regular basis, lest I get lost in a forest of rich thoughts and beautiful ideas while completely missing or ignoring the trees.
I love conferences. As college ministers, our family “vacations” are nearly always attached to a retreat, conference or extended summer training project. Even though we have attended these for decades, I still take superfluous notes in every seminar. I salivate at the thought of hearing age-old truths repackaged and told through different narratives and perspectives. I am that girl.
But conferences aren’t enough, classes aren’t enough, books and blogs are not enough. Beneficial:absolutely; necessary: potentially; enough: never.
Truth left uninterpreted and unapplied is mere information. Truth intentionally and personally interpreted and applied leads to transformation.
In his memoir, Eugene Peterson speaks of the church as “primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful without ceasing.”
Primarily local and relentlessly personal: simple phrases explaining a reality fraught with messiness. Discipleship, and I mean the term in the broadest sense, not the narrow college ministry sense, takes people from information to transformation.
God could have sent down a pile of blueprints or prescriptions to deal with our sin; rather, He chose to send His son incarnate, literally in the flesh. While He walked the earth, Christ could have spent the majority of His time writing up a thorough handbook or manual for the twelve disciples; rather, His life and person were the handbook.
The disciples didn’t enroll in a class and they didn’t buy a coveted scroll. They walked with Christ for years through the mundane and the miraculous. They listened to His stories and His teaching and information, of course, as these were essential components to Christ’s discipleship. But they also were pulled aside as Christ for deeper explanation and interpretation; they heard the truth and watched Christ act it out before the crowds and in the secluded places.
Christ intentionally and personally interpreted the Truth with them, and the world has never been the same, because these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
I am writing this to remind myself of the truths I desperately need to hear. I am easily swept away in a culture awed by the bigger, the better, the faster and the newer. I am a true millennial who wants to do big things, living perpetually in the milieu of the college campus. Occasionally, I get swallowed by the craving for the sexy and the grandiose and am tempted to leave my little post here among the trees.
But the big thing really is the small thing over and over again with new people.
I fully intend to keep reading books and blogs and attending conferences; however, by the grace of God, I also intend to be involved in the messy, often inglorious work of discipleship where the powerful information learned there will be whittled down, woven into and lived out in lives of transformation.
The internet has flattened the world; we have so much rich, powerful information at our fingertips.
People and the world wait to be transformed through flesh-and-blood discipleship in the primarily local and intensely personal church.
Intentional interpreters are needed.