Little boys grow up playing baseball with the big dream of making it to the professional league some day. A very small percentage of boys actually see that dream realized. However, upon arriving at their first big league ball practice—they suddenly discover that they still have coaches. In fact, they have more coaches as a professional than they did when they were playing at lower levels. They still are required to practice the fundamentals of the game. In short, professional baseball players never reach a place where they arrive at full development, knowledge, and wisdom so that they do not require a coaching staff.
The best athletes are those who always keep a teachable spirit and are willing to make necessary adjustments as they continue to develop even as a professional player. One of the most discouraging things to watch is someone who has a massive amount of talent, but they suffer from the “know it all” syndrome which plagues them and consistently holds them back.
Within the church, we must approach discipleship with a teachable spirit. First of all, the members of the church are placed under the leadership of pastors for the purpose of spiritual development. In Ephesians 4, Paul wrote these words to the church in Ephesus (and the surrounding cities):
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph. 4:11-14).
Notice the language of equipping, building up, unity of the faith, attaining knowledge, and mature manhood. This is the process of discipleship. As a disciple (which means learner) develops, he or she is able to avoid the traps of the wicked one which may include temptations to sin or temptations to embrace false teaching. If a Christian ever arrives at a place where he or she believes that the church is not necessary or that they’ve arrived at a level of knowledge that’s superior so they don’t need the teaching ministry of local church pastors—they’ve arrived in a very dangerous place. The “know it all” syndrome plagues and hinders Christians too—not just budding baseball players.
Another thing to remember about discipleship is that teachers need to be discipled too. One of the great joys of my life has been to see our church embrace an eldership that involves the preaching of fellow pastors on Sunday evenings that allows me to sit under the preaching of the Word on a regular basis. It’s important for me to learn too. God’s blueprint for the local church is critically important and a plurality of elders who oversee the church is vitally important for the development of a pastor’s spiritual growth. A “know it all” pastor is dangerous! Remember what Paul said to the Ephesian elders when he called them to himself before his departure:
You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house (Acts 20:18–20).
In Psalm 119, the psalmist makes a statement that’s really a picture of discipleship 101. He writes the following in Psalm 119:12-13:
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
Notice how the psalmist prays to the LORD to teach him his statutes. In return, the psalmist commits to teaching the rules of God. If you know much about Psalm 119, all of the synonyms such as rules, statutes, testimonies, and commands are pointing to the sufficiency of God’s Word. Interestingly enough, long before Acts 1:8 or Matthew 28:18-20 was uttered and eventually penned down—we find a simple blueprint for discipleship. We are to be consistently learning God’s Word in order that we can teach others. Discipleship involves making disciples who go and make disciples who make disciples.
Are you a know it all? Do you suffer from a lack of teachability? Don’t hinder your growth and your ability to make disciples for the glory of God.