Tim’s response was unexpected. My cousin, an interim state director with Child Evangelism Fellowship, had grown up in a missionary family. He had been in fulltime ministry for his entire career, so I was surprised to hear him echo my own feelings. Of the five families in the lodge that evening during our family reunion, mine was the last one to accept the title “missionary,” and I was the only one who still had a full-time secular career. When I mentioned that I felt inadequate to wear the name missionary, Tim replied, “We all do.”
What!? … Tim felt inadequate? I had just heard him give a masterful devotional that evening, dramatically capturing the attention of all of the children while challenging me to let the Word of God to make a constant difference in my life. And he felt inadequate? As I considered further, I realized that I had grown up under solid Bible preaching my entire life. My parents had not only made sure we all attended church, but they also lived out a consistent commitment to God, entering a second career serving on a mission board. I had been given an enviable Christian heritage that could reasonably make a new Christian wonder how on earth I could feel inadequate. Yet I did.
To top it off, I hear of missionary children or brand new Christians leading people to Christ with far less formal training than I’ve had. If God can use them, why do I feel He can’t use me?
A phenomenon known as The Curse of Knowledge is likely at work. The problem is that after we have learned something, we forget what it is like not to know it. As we mature, we always tend to see our current condition as normal. We expect everyone else to know at least as much as we do. There are many side effects of this problem that we can discuss in later posts, but for now let’s focus on this one:
Despite regular steps of growth, we wrongly feel we have nothing to offer anyone else.
The truth is, if you are more mature than another Christian by even one step – even in only one small area – you can be a discipler in that one area. If another Christian is a step ahead of me – even in only one small area – I can learn from that Christian.
Honestly, the Christian who is significantly more spiritual than I am is not likely to be my best teacher. Why? Because of the curse of knowledge. The teacher so far ahead of me will likely forget what it is like to struggle with the things I struggle with. On the other hand, if you are only one small step ahead of another believer, you may be absolutely the single best person to disciple them in that area.
With Christ empowering you, you are not inadequate; neither am I. No, God expects all of us to be both learning and teaching. Consider 2 Timothy 2:2.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 2:2
As he wrote this epistle, Paul was teaching Timothy. Timothy was then to teach faithful men. Next, those faithful men were to teach yet others. Each of these men was at a different level of spiritual maturity, yet each one was to be teaching. Now, they could compare themselves to Paul and feel utterly inadequate, or they could recognize the role God had for them and become a useful discipler in someone else’s life.
God has a role for you, too. Who has God placed into your life? Don’t let the curse of knowledge make you feel inadequate. Who will you disciple?