A group of church leaders are dynamically impacting a hostile tribe of eight million people in northeast India. They are putting their lives on the line every day as they proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel. And most of them cannot read.
Two thousand years ago, the first apostles were former fishermen, tax collectors, and at least one Zealot. We don’t know the occupation of all the others, but certainly Jesus did not entrust the future of the church exclusively to scholars. Blue-collar workers led powerful faith communities.
So why is the church today led primarily by scholars? The main reason is the printing press. The government once controlled the church, but that ended when the printing press was invented and people could read the Bible for themselves. Since scholars were the only people who could read, they got the job of church leadership by default. Church leadership went from fishermen, to government workers, to scholars.
In today’s western church, if you want to grow in Christ, you are typically directed to study more. Christian growth is tied to an academic path. The only difference between the church and other educational institutions is that nobody graduates from the church. We just keep going to school.
Don Miller, author of bestsellers like Blue Like Jazz, drew criticism when he wrote, “The church in America is led by scholars . . . . Because we’ve been led by scholars for so long, we have slightly distorted ideas about Christian discipleship.”
I have more academic degrees than should be allowed by law. And I have great respect for the rigorous pursuit of Truth. When Jesus selected his first students, He took them to school; He taught them for three years. But He taught them by doing, in action, with people, by touching stuff. When they graduated, Jesus pushed them into the world and said, “You don’t know everything, but you know enough. You’ll have a Guide, and I’ll be with you always. So go and teach others to obey my commands” (my translation). They went and did it.
So my bet is on the Indian leaders. They cannot read the Bible for themselves, but they can quote long passages of Scripture by memory. They are doing it and they are changing their tribe.
Are you a carpenter or a plumber or a homemaker? The church needs leaders who don’t write and speak and teach for a living to step up and put some action to their faith. So go ahead, lead. You’re qualified. Christ said He would be with you. And He promised you a great Guide.