Knowledge or Obedience-Based Spirituality

God is moving in such amazing and unique ways around the world right now. Thom Wolf, with his finger on the pulse of what God is doing in the world, believes that the 21st century will be most ever like the 1st century — especially in India. Three trends stand out that led him to this conclusion:

  • The ministry is given back to the common Christians, not the highly educated or social elites.
  • The Holy Spirit is igniting and empowering movements way beyond human manufacturing.
  • Persecution is prevalent and purifies the church to do great things for the glory of God. Persecution always makes the church stronger, by the way…

I have been fascinated by the church planting movments (CPMs) around the world. If you want to be inspired and challenged, read “Church Planting Movements” by David Garrison and “Miraculous Movements” by Jerry Trousdale. You will find that, even though as Americans our Christianity is fairly stable and consistent, many places in the world are seeing mind-blowing Holy Spirit-led multiplication of disciples and churches — the kind that have been rare in the history of the church. God is up to something. Take notice, people.

In a recent round-table discussion of denominational mission leaders, we talked about our deep desire to see God do a new thing among our churches in the U.S. too. It led to some great conversations and valuable insights. For me, the crux of the issue is the following:

  • In our American Christianity, we have a knowlege-based spirituality. Learning leads to spiritual maturity in our motif of belief.
  • In many places in the world, there is an obedience-based spirituality. Obedience leads to spiritual maturity–simply doing what God’s word tells us to do.

What does the Bible say? Of course, so much. However, those that were the least mature in Jesus’ eyes were the Pharisees — those that had the most knowledge and information. The Scriptures tell us that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” In contrast to this, Jesus told us that “if you love me, you will obey my commandents.”

Back to movements in the world: Movements happen where obedience rather than knowledge aquisition leads the way. This doesn’t mean information is bad, it simply means that the believers in Holy Spirit-led movements understand that obedience to what they know is essential–and they do it. In our American motif of knowledge-based spirituality, we take years to learn what we’re “supposed” to know about the Christian life…and by then we’re stale and stagnant.

As James reminds us, “For him who knows what to do and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.”

Can we change the American spirituality motif? Of course not — only God could do that. But each of us can choose to begin a movement in our own hearts…one of complete and immediate obedience to God.