Disobedience to God's Word needs no encouragement; it's abundant enough, thank you. Yet without intending to, local churches frequently establish patterns that hinder actually doing the Word.
The formula is deceptively simple: Expose people to more biblical material than they can digest, do it in a context separated from real life, and emphasize Bible facts, not personal acts.
Imagine the typical situation of a new believer: He attends a Sunday morning Bible class studying Paul's three missionary journeys. Full of excitement from Dr. Luke's dynamic account of worldwide salvation in Jesus (but with no time to assimilate it), he enters the sanctuary for worship. The sermon is "Speaking Covenant: The Ultimate Language of Love," part of a series on Hosea. The new believer is impressed with the need for covenant love in both his relationship with God and with his spouse.
On the way out, he picks up the current copy of Daily Light. Using this or some other excellent plan for daily Bible study, he'll spend six brief sessions in Psalms.
If he's really serious, he'll also attend a midweek Bible study/prayer group, where the parables are being taught. But they won't explode in his mind either, because he's still half-thinking about what the TV evangelist said last night.
He's effectively been inoculated.
In the Great Commission, Jesus called not for teaching the Word but "teaching them to obey." Doing, not hearing, biblical truth is the measure of biblical faith. When we encourage gathering information or even inspiration without learning to live it, we unwittingly encourage disobedience. We erect barriers against the Holy Spirit.
Kierkegaard once said, "The moment I take Christianity as a doctrine and so indulge my cleverness or profundity or eloquence or imaginative powers in depicting it, people are very pleased; I am looked upon as a serious Christian. The moment I begin to express existentially what I say, and consequently bring Christianity into reality, it is just as though I had exploded existence—the scandal is there at once" (Journals, 343).
In an effort to bring Christianity into reality, I began 20 years ago to explore the concept of an integrated congregational curriculum.
I was pastoring Temple Baptist Church in inner-city Montreal, a multicultural fellowship where I was challenged to communicate God's Word to five diverse ethnic groups.
We wrote a lectionary of daily readings that led us systematically through whole books of the Bible. During the week, our neighborhood meetings in homes of church members would discuss three or four simple questions we had copied to help them apply the readings of the week. Then on Sunday I preached from the study portion assigned for that week. The community walked with me through a passage they'd already studied.
From that experience I learned the principle of reinforced learning: People are more likely to "do the doctrine" when they meet that same word in more than one environment.
Ten years later, at West Point Grey Baptist Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, the integrated approach took a quantum leap forward. I discovered that a lasting lesson is learned when people find it for themselves.
"Standing at the bus stop the other day," one of the older sisters confessed to me, "I tried to remember something from all the sermons I've heard over 30 years. My mind went totally blank. But I was flooded with gratitude when I recalled the things I'd discovered for myself in the Scriptures."