In these blog posts, I’m looking at power struggles in the church, especially those caused by a lack of regard for a church’s identity and culture (as well as an over-dependence on traditionalism). One thing that causes conflict in the church is a failure to recognize different kinds of knowledge.
On the one hand, we have ministers with theological training. That’s one of the more obvious types of knowledge in a congregation. Some churches value such training above all else; other congregations are wary of training received outside the church itself. Many ministers feel that their training gives them a voice of authority within the church, while many members and church leaders feel that “book learning” is of little value in the real world. That’s an obvious source of conflict.
I personally feel that theological training is important and prepares people to deal with some of the issues a church faces. But only some. We need other kinds of knowledge as well, such as:
- Bible knowledge — Those holding a theological degree often feel like they have this kind of knowledge. If they’ve studied correctly, they’ve received the tools to help them gain Bible knowledge and help others do the same. But they aren’t necessarily the most knowledgeable in their congregation.
- Life experience — This kind of knowledge is priceless. The Bible emphasizes the need to turn to older people for sage advice. It’s a natural tendency in the young to resent the fact that this is one kind of knowledge they can’t have yet; it’s a weakness of the old to assume that living a long time has necessarily given them this wisdom.
- Knowledge of congregational and community history — History does not control us, but it can often provide an important voice in the decision making process.
- Knowledge of contemporary culture — This is one type of knowledge that often decreases with age. It’s one of the reasons churches vitally need input from their younger members.
- People skills — Many elders lack these. Many ministers lack these. Many church members lack these. All of us lack these at times. One of the greatest forms of knowledge is to know how to treat people.
I could go on, but I hope you get the point. There’s a reason no one person is to lead a congregation. We are a body. We grow as a body. We function best as a body. We need many kinds of knowledge to make the church what we should be.