When we live in an education-centric society, we tend to see the world through the lens of growing in knowledge and will filter our needs through an educational process. We look at the things we want to grow in, or the parts of our live that we have a deficiency and begin to seek out how we can better educate ourselves on this particular deficiency. I remember when our oldest son was just a few months old, I wanted to learn about what its like to have family worship. For me, this meant get a couple of books, read the relevant Bible passages, learn the different styles and then determine from my study which way is best. While this has bore fruit, the most profitable choice I made was to be around families that had family worship, discussed the Scriptures and other valuable things. More than learning from them, I was able to participate with them. They welcomed us into their home and lives, which to this day has been more valuable than anything else I have done to learn about family worship. Sitting with a pastor who is teaching his son how to pray for adults by letting him pray for adults is more engrained in my mind than the books. The Bible passages I read and have considered regarding raising Christian children are driven home when I remember my times participating with others.
Here is what I have come to understand: While we must be well read and learned in doctrine and history, our theology will be “fleshed out” by participating in life with others in the flesh. In other words, theology is rooted by the Word, prayer and worship and should naturally spill over to your life where it becomes formed. One of the ways in which God forms us and roots the truths of Scripture in our lives is by being with others. Philippians can only make sense within a fellowship of believers. Deep knowledge of God can’t occur for a parent without two and three year olds. How would I understand love without my kids, wife, family, friends and church? What about long-suffering, trials and hurt? What about apostasy, or the need of the new birth without others around who have fallen away or those who can’t seem to grasp Christianity because they haven’t been born again? While I guess anything is possible, can we understand the parable of the sowers without a working knowledge of how seasons and soils work? What makes the book of Proverbs more meaningful: studying Hebrew or getting older? As the old pastoral expression goes: “they don’t teach about that kind of stuff in seminary.”
So if you allow me, here is my in the flesh application: take the time to listen and talk with others who are deeply rooted in the fear of God. Here is the beginning of knowledge and here you must start. Yes, ask them theological questions, but watch how the theology comes out their fingertips as Doug Wilson is fond of saying. How do they speak to their wife and kids in public, how do they treat people older than them, what books of the Bible do they like and why, why did they pick their specific vocation? Ask these questions. But don’t forget the other stuff too, such as salt or no salt on their peas, favorite music, etc. Rub shoulders with others, looking for the right answers that you may become the type of person Christ desires you to be: A faithful man, full of the Spirit, undergirded by the truth.