How you know something matters more than what you know. This simple set of words contains perhaps the most significant shift of all. As we talk about leading the church, the world, into the next age, I believe no one thought matters more than this one.
Not only is this a substantially important idea, it has substantially important implications for action and outcomes.
Look with me for a moment at a struggling young mother, who looks into her child’s room and recognizes a simple fact. The room is a stinking mess. The mother decides to act. She tells her child to clean the room, and, after a bit of conflict, she ends up cleaning the room for the child.
How it gets done matters more than what gets done. Why? Because the implication here is that the clean room matters more than the long-term formation of the child’s soul, their mind, will and emotions.
We settle for a satisfying outcome regarding temporary things rather than fight for a change that impacts eternity.
With a willingness to focus on process (how the room gets clean) instead of content (the room is clean), this child could become the kind of person who stewards. When the focus is on outcome, the child becomes the kind of person who expects to be catered to.
How you know something matters more than what you know. Let’s move beyond the simple act of room cleaning to the idea of leading the church into the next age.
Do we want to foster disciples who foster disciples, or do we want generations of people who look to be catered to?
When I talk about “how” you know something, I am not referring to the source of your data. I am referring to the process, the way that knowing takes place.
I want to look at two important issues regarding the way we know the kind of truth that sets people free. It is important to consider both source and target.
Source refers to where the “knowing” comes from, target refers to what part of your soul receives the “knowing.” Regarding both, it is crucial to note that Paul tells the Corinthian church that spiritual things are spiritually received (apprehended, learned). (1 Cor 2:14)
What this means is that both source and target are spiritual. If either is carnal, we may hear right information but not necessarily spiritual truth. Be sure you get that. Right information may not necessarily be the kind of truth we are after. Remember, right information, minus Spirit, was the collapse of the religious systems of Jesus’ day.
When a man memorizes and repeats information, this is a cognitive exercise and not necessarily a spiritual one. Not knowing the difference between flesh and spirit is how we fall prey to harmful ways of knowing.
The two possible sources of knowing truth go all the way back to Genesis 3. We can know via the tree of Life, or we can know via our knowledge of good and evil. Oddly, both of these sources can broadcast the same data with vastly different results because one breathes life, the other death. When God is speaking, creation is happening.
The issue of source simply determines whether the words and messages headed into our soul contain life. Or not.
The issue of target is similar, but on the receiving end.
I often watch with amusement the moment of transition between a worship set and a sermon in any given service or conference session. Some visible things are taking place. People are changing posture, many take out notebooks or electronic devices. People are shifting posture, but often a less visible shift is taking place. People are shifting into learning mode. They are about to engage their cognition. This is fine, but often they are also shutting off the part of them that has just been engaged with the Spirit.
At the level of cognition, we prepare to receive and store data and thoughts. You see, communication has several ways it can be understood. A common way to think of it is that all communication has both an information level and a relationship level. What I say is information. How I say it has implications about my relationship with the receiver.
You can say truthful words with hurtful tone and inflection. The tone and inflection indicate your relationship. These relational “staements” can be entirely separate from the information being transmitted. And this is what happens when we shift into education mode to learn spiritual truth.
We learn great information with the clear message that God is at a distance, instructing us and hoping we comprehend the meaning of His instructions. What if we approach the teaching portion of worship the same way we approach the musical portion? What if we expect in the words of a speaker that God’s breath is moving among us and awaiting contact.
The way you know something matters more than what you know.
Just ask your wife.
In this next age, we may need to Think Differently about the process of our exchange more than the content.