When we over-emphasize knowledge in our approach to discipleship, we end up with a classroom approach. Discipleship is a checklist of things to read and know. It’s curriculum-based and doesn’t take into account where God is currently working in the life of an individual.
The all-head discipleship model has been a popular approach for many years. Teach them. Give them knowledge. Instill in them new facts. Discipleship is primarily about knowing the right information, whether that’s the books of the Bible in order, church history, memory verses, or the most precise Trinitarian language. The academic model centers on the classroom: we educate toward discipleship.
The assumption of the academic model, often unstated, is that if people know enough, they’ll start doing the right things and their hearts will change. But we know from long experience that it doesn’t automatically follow. Knowing doesn’t always lead to doing or being. We might get our thinking straight, but we don’t let it go to our heart. Often those we disciple in this way begin to think that knowledge is the point of discipleship–knowledge for its own sake. The more you know, the more mature a disciple you are. Pride and subtle one-upsmanship are more often than not the result.
With a skewed overemphasis on knowledge, the consequence is disciples who fail to reach out and act. The danger is becoming educated beyond our obedience, thinking straight but not letting it go to our heart. Too often we assume if we just know certain things we are mature. Not so. We must do them and feel them too.