What we consider education is mainly information sharing with little application or practical use. I am just as guilty of this as a pastor as anyone. We all assume that if a person understands the Bible that they will follow it. Unfortunately that is usually not the case and a sermon or even a small group Bible study isn’t likely to bring about the transformation that we’re looking for.
I believe that people who deeply study God’s Word end up being better Christians but not because they know more. They make a better attempt to follow God for the same reason that they study more – they love the Lord. At best, Biblical education has an indirect effect on a Christian’s life. A person knows more about God so they love Him more. Because they love Him more, they want to follow Him more.
This is why discipleship is important and why more education doesn’t reach the desired goal. Education isn’t at fault, but rather the lack of follow up and application. Disciple groups aim for application and provide follow up on learned skills. Jesus obviously spent a lot of time educating His disciples. They heard all of the sermons that He preached to the masses and there was additional instruction just for them as well. We only have a small fraction of what Jesus taught recorded in the Bible. But Jesus didn’t stop with just telling the disciples what was right and wrong and explaining the Bible to them. He made them live it.
Jesus sent His disciples out, two by two, into the towns and villages ahead of Him. They preached and performed miracles. Then they came back to Jesus and reported all that they had seen and done. Jesus gave follow up instruction based on what they reported. This is how discipleship truly works. A person lives out their daily life in accordance with what they have been taught. At the next meeting they report how things went and adjustments are made and further instruction is given.
Education is great, but it can’t do it all. A person can gain the same information by reading a book or by hearing a teacher instruct on the topic but one will be more valuable to them. Millions of students wouldn’t need school if they could just read it in a book. Likewise, discipleship takes education a step further and makes it more applicable to a student than simply being instructed does. This is why education is a start but not the finish line.