Lately Willow Creek has talked about Christians learning how to be “self-feeding.” The premise is that as Christians grow in the Lord, they are studying the Bible and taking responsibility for their learning. The problem is that personal Bible study and even much of the teaching in church can have the adverse effect of fattening us up with knowledge.
First of all, when I think of Christians who are self-feeding, I immediately think of a person studying the Bible by himself/herself. Theology is first of all a practice for the whole church to do together, and so even the theological conclusions of our personal study should be shared with other Christians, fellow bloggers, or some other gathering of friends and fellow believers.
And even if we proceed to become self-feeding, there is also a word of caution about feeding in general. I know that many Christians choose churches based on whether or not they are “fed” good teachings. This is well and good provided that the meal is not the main event.
Where I’m going here has to do with the purpose of our food. In a sense, we don’t eat for the fun of it, we eat because it provides the fuel we need to live: going grocery shopping, picking up our children, or working a full-time job. Perhaps the most intentional person when it comes to food is an athlete, as athletes carefully regulate their carbs, sugars, and who knows what else before a game. They view food as a vital means of accomplishing a goal.
What is our goal for the spiritual/theological food we consume?
I see a two-fold goal for Christians. One is to draw near to God. The other is closely tied: proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The first may be obvious to everyone, but the second not so much.
As we study the Bible we will hopefully find a God who is reaching out to his creation, even going as far as the incarnation to connect with us. The message of the New Testament, the ultimate destination of the Old Testament, is that Jesus is Lord, repent and follow him. On several occasions Jesus tells his followers they must pick up where he left off.
And if studying the Bible shoos us out the door to live the Gospel and proclaim it, our theology also provides the content of our message. As we encounter hard questions about God and our world, our theology must be put into practice, exercising the muscles we have built while in study, prayer, and conversation.
Of course we can just sit around and study the Bible and keep it all to ourselves. If we end up doing that, then I suggest aren’t reading it very closely.