the weblog of Alan Knox

Knowing About or Experiencing

Posted by on Feb 24, 2009 in blog links | 10 comments

Is there a difference between knowing about something and experiencing something? Jonathan at “Missio Dei” asks this question in his post “Does Love Exist?” Jonathan says:

The space between the two, between knowing information about something because it was given to you and knowing something from experience, is a chasm. I think it is the difference between what makes the body of Christ strong and irrelevant to the world. Knowing about something produces no real tangible evidence or penetrating experience. Knowing something from experience produces evidence that cannot be ignored. It can be rejected but it can’t be ignored.

The question then is, what is the dominant structure we’re seeing in the church today. Knowing about something or knowing from experience?

I’ll ask his question in a slightly different manner: Is it possible to know about something without experiencing it? Is it possible to experience something without knowing about it? Is one more important than the other when it comes to God, love, service, etc.?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-24-2009

    I ended up with an answer of over four hundred words. I bit long for a comment doncha think? So instead of taking up all that room at your place I’ll crowd myself up instead. But the short answers are; yes, yes, maybe yes, but maybe both are vital.

    Krumb, now I’ll never get to the store and bake my cake for today. Do you mind if I post it later today? I’d send you a piece of cake if I could! You could read my post titled, “Feelings” in the mean time if you have time. It kinda fits in. (hey a hundred words are better than four-fifty)

  2. 2-24-2009

    This whole matter of knowing vs. experiencing really connects with something we’ve been wrestling with lately (though I’m not sure it was the direction you were going with this…)

    We keep finding ourselves frustrated by how many new books are being written about being the Body of Christ, living outside the institution, etc. (not that those books are bad, they’ve helped us a lot) but now it’s like we have more and more “organic-church” conferences, with all these authors filling the bill, talking about their latest books. It seems ironic that something like the “incarnational movement”, or whatever buzz-words you may choose to describe it, seems to be increasingly packaged and broadcast via specially-trained individuals. Of course, the intentions are good, but at what point does just wanting to “get the information out there” start to cancel out the power of actually experiencing it? If following Jesus is a relationship that ultimately has to be experienced, then at what point to we hinder it when we stay in the realms of theory and theology? When do actually maybe even start to contradict the very “incarnational” nature of what we are trying to get others to grasp? Is it just a matter of getting the right information to people, or does it need to be lived out at the same time?

    Can we in fact hinder people from learning to experience life as living stones in the living temple, if in our eagerness to reach more people, we wind up turning back to what is essentially having people elevated as the unofficial “clergy” of this “movement”, those who have all the info, all the “tools”, all the answers…?

    Interested in your thoughts on this Alan (and no, I’m not suggesting you are in that “unofficial clergy” category!)


  3. 2-24-2009

    From years of experience I have learned that there are the talkers, and there are the doers. There are those who go to meetings and conferences, and there are those who do – who love, serve and spend their time and efforts on people.

    Although there is some obvious overlap, most people choose one group or the other. It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the books, conferences, meetings, vision plans, etc. etc. and totally miss the people.

    If Jesus had thought this was the way to go, I suppose He would have given conferences, workshops, and written a bunch of books. Hmmm! Perhaps we should follow His example.

  4. 2-24-2009


    I found your post (“Feelings“). I’ve skimmed it, but haven’t read it yet. I’ll take that piece of cake and eat it while I’m reading your post. (I like your answers, by the way.)


    “unofficial clergy”… since I’m part of a seminar in March, I’ve thought very seriously about this. I’m concerned about it also. I think you’ve brought up some very good points concerning knowing about vs. experiencing.

    Here are some of the decisions about the upcoming seminar:
    1) Make sure the seminar is not about me. I did not even want my name on the flyer. I agreed to put it there so people could contact me if they wanted to.
    2) Make sure the seminar is as relational as possible. We are doing everything we can to live out what we’re teaching during the seminar. In other, we want to make sure the people are more important than the seminar.
    3) Make sure that I am part of the seminar to learn. I am not going primarily to teach – although I will teach. Instead, I’m looking forward to learning from other brothers and sisters.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on those decisions.


    Yes. I would even add “Bible studiers” to you list. I know people who “study” the Bible all the time, but never live it. There’s a problem there.


  5. 2-24-2009

    Alan – I’m really encouraged that you take this stuff seriously! (big hug…) We’ve been to a conference type-thing in the past, that was intended to be very participatory and such, and which had several itinerant-speaker types who were there to “facilitate” the conversation. Turns out, people who are used to being up front and doing all the talking, have a hard time with a true, interactive discussion. It seems to often only go so far as “ask me a question, I’ll give you my answer”… Certainly we need teaching, and, the reality is, some people are going to talk more than others. That’s fine. But we’ve learned that it takes some serious effort to break old habits. There is certainly a tricky balance to be maintained by those who are passionate about the body, who desire to be approachable, and available, while at the same time not drawing too much attention to themselves. Again, I’m really encouraged that you take these matters to heart, and in the end you just seeking to help others look into the what the Bible actually teaches, instead of what so many of us have assumed that it says… We’ll be praying for you and for the upcoming seminar. Peace, Daniel

  6. 2-25-2009


    I know about Will Rogers, but I never experienced him. I’ve studied him, read about him, and enjoyed musicals about his life, but I haven’t really experienced what it’s like to be his friend. And I can’t because he is no longer alive.

    Jesus is alive. I cannot stop at just knowing about Him. I must experience Him. I must serve Him, be His friend, walk with Him, talk with Him, and learn from Him.

  7. 2-25-2009

    I believe that it is possible to experience God without initially knowing about Him.

    In some ways I think that it’s better to experience God before knowing about Him. I say that because, one cannot experience God without wanting more. This will lead someone to find out about who God is.

    On the other hand, there are many people who know about God that never do desire to experience Him. I’ve seen people who teach about God who have never really experienced Him.

    When it comes to love, serving, etc, I think both are essential. However, those who have experienced God would probably have a better chance of loving and serving from their hearts.

    Those who only know about God will attempt to serve Him for the wrong reasons.


  8. 2-25-2009

    Nice thoughts and conversations Alan. Thanks for stirring it up.

  9. 2-25-2009


    Thank you for the prayer. We need it.


    Yes. I think sometimes people forget that Jesus is alive and can be known the way any living person can be know – even better, I think.


    I understand what you’re saying. I think all of us should continue to seek to know God more and to know more about God.


    Thank you for kicking off this conversation!


  10. 2-26-2009


    I totally agree!! The day that we stop trying to know God more and stop trying to know more about Him, is the day that we start to fall away from Him.