You probably recognize the title of this post as the first half of an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. I like this type of saying–many of them capture valuable wisdom and pass it on in an easy to remember form. I have noticed that these old sayings are losing their place in our modern world–only old guys like me seem to remember them.
I began thinking about this one as I was working on the last two posts, which dealt with Romans 8.28. Rather than see the passage as a prescription to use when problems happen, I suggested that it is better seen as a tool to know and have available when things happen. Unfortunately, this passage like many Biblical tools and resources isn’t part of many Christians’ faith inventory.
Most believers have only a passing familiarity with the Bible, knowing just a few highlights like Psalm 23 and maybe John 3.16, as well as some verses connected with whatever theme or themes some pastor or another liked to preach on. They may also know a few of the Bible stories that Sunday School lessons are built on, although given the relative scarcity of Sunday Schools these days, that is becoming less of a likelihood.
Whenever I have had the opportunity to teach prospective pastors, I eventually get around to asking two questions:
- How many have read the whole Bible at least once?
- Is the book of Hezekiah in the New Testament or Old Testament?
I have never yet been in front of a class of prospective pastors where everyone in the class has read the whole Bible. And if that is the case for people seeking to lead and be pastors, it is even worse for the rest of believers. There are many believers who read and study the Bible on a regular basis and who have significant Biblical knowledge, which they make good use of in their lives.
But there are also many others who don’t know the Bible. They likely have a Bible, listen to the Bible reading before the sermon and might even have a favourite passage–but most of the Bible is a vague blur. And that means that many believers really don’t get much benefit from the Bible or their faith.
Now, it would be easy to write a lot of nasty stuff about believers who don’t know their Bible–but I can’t and won’t do that. I won’t because it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to anyone. And I can’t because Biblical illiteracy really isn’t the fault of those who don’t read the Bible. It is the fault of the church and its leaders, who have failed to carry out one of our most basic tasks as pastors, teachers and church leaders.
We have failed to put serious emphasis on making disciples, missing the point of Matthew 28.19 entirely. In that passage, Jesus tells us, ” Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (NIV). Disciples are students, people who are seeking to learn and grow in their understanding. Disciples need teachers, people who will guide them in their learning process. But many times, the Church has seen people are souls to save, pockets to pick, bodies to count, votes to provide support and so on. What many people have been given is only those things that they need to make them good at whatever role their leadership assigns them.
As a member of the conservative side of the church, I have seen how many leaders give people enough of the Faith to encourage them to become believers–they are saved. And once they are saved, there isn’t anything else for them. They know enough to be a convert but are never helped to become disciples.
And then, when they face the problems and difficulties of life, as they will because faith does not give us immunity to this, they really have nothing to help them. If they seek help from their faith in the midst of the mess, the help comes with difficulty because it is necessary to lay a foundation at the same time as the ground is shaking.
Jesus told us to make disciples because we need to foundation before the ground shakes. Good discipleship is the ounce of prevention that does away with the need of a pound of cure. Even more, it enables believers to take their rightful place in the world as people confident that in the strength and presence of God, they can deal with anything–they have the tools and the presence of God.
May the peace of God be with you.