What if you sent your children to school and realized the teachers were not teaching new material? The students stayed at the same level in all of their subjects. One teacher said he did not want to introduce new vocabulary words because that would be intimidating – What if the student read a word and didn’t know what it meant? That would be paralyzing, and they might put the book down and never want to read again!

My example sounds silly, doesn’t it? Exposure to new things helps us learn. We need to be mentally stretched and challenged in order to move forward. If a student doesn’t know what a word means, they look it up in the dictionary. One aspect of an education is that it teaches you how to learn…and think.

Recently there was an article at The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled: Students Will Rise When Colleges Challenge Them to Read Good Books. The article points to the trend of professors having low expectations for freshman college students. They assign easy reading material and don’t expect much from them. The article explains the problems with this troubling trend. Lowering the bar, instead of raising the bar, is impoverishing the students.

I’ve often found that I am capable of more than I think when given a challenge. When I was a student, I can remember looking over the syllabus for a new class and feeling incapable of completing the assignments or reading the books. But I did it. I rose to the occasion, and benefited as a result.

Some people reach adulthood and cease all efforts to keep learning in life. Learning does not have to be formal. Much learning is informal. I’ve seen horrifying statistics about the number of people who never read another book of substance after graduating from school.

They let their brains deteriorate.

Our brains need exercise just like our bodies.

Regarding the low expectations for college freshman, I’ve observed the same troubling trend in the church. The bar is set really low. Too many preachers keep things elementary, and don’t challenge their congregants to grow in their knowledge of the faith.

“Put the cookies on the lower shelf” is a phrase about the need to make complex subjects understandable to the everyday person. This is an important skill, but the concept can be taken too far. Charles Ryrie said:

“Put the cookies on the lower shelf is not always good advice, for it discourages the hearer from stretching and reaching to understand the truth.”

The church is impoverishing its people. It should aim to do more than comfort us or entertain us  – it should stretch us. Sometimes we put so much emphasis on the “heart” of our faith, we forget that our minds matter too.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying church should be like a seminary class. But pastors can certainly bring tidbits of knowledge into their sermons to expose their congregants to deeper biblical and theological truths. At one church in my area, the pastors recommend books that are connected to the current sermon series and share the books they are personally reading. Little things like this can cultivate a culture of the mind.

We also need to take personal responsibility for loving God with our minds.

Pick a book to read about Christianity that is a step above what you would normally consider. Explore an aspect of the Sunday sermon on a deeper level. Etc.

Luke 10:27 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul proclaimed in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” The apostle Peter emphasized that knowledge of God is an important dimension of our faith (2 Peter 1).

There is always more to know about our great God!

Knowledge of Him can better help us love Him, worship Him, and live for Him.

This does not mean we expect everyone to become an academic. But “Christians will rise when they are challenged to read good books and mentally explore their beliefs.”