Today we have SMART devices. The acronym SMART means Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. It monitors hard drives and alerts us when there are problems and harmful processes underway. Smart devices, like cell phones, TV’s, cameras, and computers, connect to the internet. We can quickly access information, share it with others, and store it for future use. SMART devices also link with other digital tools through wireless protocols such as Bluetooth.
Suppose, however, we think of SMART technology as a metaphor and apply it to the evangelical church. That church would be highly interconnected and supremely self-aware. It would possess multi-capacity hardware and endless, application potentials. So, let us engage in a little thought experiment and imagine what this might mean.
The SMART church’s self-monitoring analysis and reporting capacity would scrutinize the thought and practice of the church, and warn us quickly of any crisis or inappropriate application. The church would quickly address malpractice and moral failure, such as abuse of power, sexual misconduct, unwise political collaboration, or lack of financial transparency. It would also discern and address fatal doctrinal errors and syncretism with local cultures and worldviews (“viruses”).
The SMART church would connect with its religious history, its social context, and the global Christian community. It would know its past: the creeds, theological development, and key moments in church history. It would link to believers all over the world and learn from them. It would deeply understand the cultural setting in which it resides.
The SMART church would be a place for thinkers. Believers would love God in all dimensions: their heart, their hand, and especially their mind (Mark 12:30). Businessmen, artists, academics, writers, technicians, and scientists would grow in knowledge and wisdom. They would connect their faith and profession. They would discern how to go “into” the world but not become “part of” it. Sermons would be well-prepared and intellectually stimulating for believers and non-believers. The music and lyrics would be thoughtful, other-focused, and multi-cultural. The liturgy would include scripture reading, confession of sin, communion, testimony, and citation of creeds.
The SMART church would function as a learning center whose members possess intellectual curiosity. SMART believers would be readers because of their hunger to learn about God and his world. They would study the Bible and the basic tenants of theology. They would understand human depravity and divine grace. They would view their cultures critically and engage idolatry. They would also design many creative applications for the glory of God and the benefit of mankind.
The SMART church would provide insightful contributions for the common good and public square. SMART Christians would attain positions of influence in society in business, the arts, sciences, politics, law, education, and the media. They would express and model the intellectual plausibility and existential credibility of the Christian faith.
But now, let us return to ecclesiological reality. Sadly, many evangelical churches today are not SMART. They are not often historically, globally, or even contextually interconnected. They are turned inward and tuned out. They are gullible and easily swayed by public opinion and erroneous schemes. They are viewers (of social media, movies, and TV), not readers. They are largely irrelevant intellectually. They are basically self-preservative, continually focused on maintaining outdated infrastructure.
Metaphorically, many churches prefer the old, rotary phone. Their technology cannot connect with the world today. And, sadly, we know what happens with old technology. It goes to the museum or worse—it is thrown into the trash.
The hope of future knowledge of God is the purpose and plan of our Creator. One day, the impact of sin upon the mind and heart will be reversed. Our brains, body, and soul will completely serve and honor the Lord. One day, we will reach the finish line.
Why? Because knowing God is the goal of creation and through him to know all things: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).
Ezekiel associates the restored knowledge of God with future redemption and cosmic renovation. “They shall know that I am the Lord when: I break the bars of their yoke, deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them (36:11). Or, “They shall know that I am the Lord when: the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land” (34:27). At that time God’s people will know with certainty their true identity, for “they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people” (34:30).
In Jeremiah the Lord pledges divine enablement to know him. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (24:7). More significantly, God proclaims an entirely new relationship with his people based upon a new covenant that enables a universal knowledge of God: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord” (31:33b–34a).
It is essential that the agent of insight, understanding, and knowledge is none other than promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah stated that: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (11:1–2)
Finally, the Messiah will fulfill Adam’s broken mandate (Gen 1:28). He will “work and keep” God’s creation (2:15), bringing order, beauty, safety, and purity, and productivity to the entire earth. He lives forever because he gains all knowledge and wisdom from the only authenticated course, God himself. The “last Adam,” Christ (1 Cor 15:45), will not fail as the first Adam or Israel or the church, for he will reject all knowing apart from listening to and obeying God. And, most importantly, all this will be accomplished because (“for”) “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
This is our finish line and the end of our marathon―knowing God.