Breaking Out of Over-Education

Last week, I wrote a self-confessional post called “Is There Any Hope for the Over-Educated Christian?” The takeaway of the post was meant to say, yes, there is indeed hope for those of us whose knowledge outpaces our obedience, but we aren’t likely to begin to break out of the trap of over-education until we first realize we’re in it. So I tried to give us three signs to help us self-diagnose.

Today, though, I wanted to follow up with some active steps that we might take together. Though recognition might be the first step, it can’t be the last one. In other words, if we stop at acknowledging that we are intellectually bloated but do nothing about it, then we’ve only shifted the target of our knowledge. Previously, our highest end was theological fact; now our highest end is knowledge of self. And though we might congratulate ourselves for our self-awareness and new supposed authenticity, that knowledge of self is only so good as it pushes us to a greater obedience to Jesus.

So here are three practical steps we can take once having diagnosed ourselves as being the over-educated Christian:

1. Find a place to actively serve in the local church.

Preferably, find a place to serve where you will likely not be congratulated for doing so. Rock some babies. Teach some 3-year-olds about Jesus. Volunteer to clean up the grounds of the church. Whatever it is, try and find a job where you can serve without the temptation of doing so exclusively for the applause that might come from doing so. When you serve in this silent, almost secret kind of way, you are going to war with the kind of pride which craves the sense of superiority which comes from increased knowledge.

2. Pursue the discipline of requesting specific prayer.

When we are over-educated and under-obedient, we love the kind of churched environment where we can talk in generalities about deep, theological questions. We love the opportunity to show off what we know without it having to cost us anything. And self-disclosure and acknowledgement of weakness is costly. How do we fight that? Well, one simple way might be to regularly ask someone else to pray for you. And not in a general way, but for something very specific. When you do, you are acknowledging before another your weakness and need, and you are beginning to break down the carefully constructed wall that’s been built brick by intellectual brick.

3. Pray specifically for someone else for 5 minutes a day.

It’s funny what I’ve seen happen to my prayer life as an over-educated Christian. Prayer becomes largely self-focused, when it’s there at all. Very few minutes at all are spent in intercession for another, and even when it is, those prayers aren’t specific. To break out of the self-focused grip of intellectualism, one of the very proactive things we can do is commit to pray for others, not in a general way, but very specifically, and to commit to all the other things that come along with that. Things like listening. Thing like remembering. Things like pursuing relationships of depth and meaning.

These are actions we can take, but let’s make sure that we don’t treat these actions like a formula. There is no formula; there is grace. And thankfully, God is ready to grant it as we are ready to ask.

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