One thing that I often told people as a physical fitness trainer is that they would have to change their routine in order to stimulate muscle growth and strength change. The basic principle is this: If someone sticks with the same routine for too long, their muscles will adapt and not be challenged any longer. Therefore they must continually be mixing things up. Sometimes this routine change would be minor, like changing from one group of machines (e.g. Cybex) to another (e.g. Icarian), or going from light to heavy weight. Another minor change would be simply to adjust the way one sits on a machine. Other times the changes would be more radical like doing the same chest press machine for a total of one hundred repetitions instead of the normal three sets of fifteen on three different chest press machines.

But every once in a while, I would have people do something more unorthodox. I would have them exercise with someone who has entirely different goals in their training. This would sometimes involved doing aerobics or kick boxing. Other times it might be swimming laps instead of doing weights. The point is to drastically change your workout ever so often to stimulate advancement, change, and growth. The goal in each of these is to “shock the muscles” as us trainers would call it.

This same principle holds true when it comes to intellectual growth. We must be continually challenging ourselves in many ways. Some of these will be minor and some will seem downright unorthodox. But if you do not do this, your education will be limited to a confirmation of prejudice which is not really education at all. If you do not do this, at best, there will be no change, at worst, your intellectual muscles will begin to atrophy. 

Ways to shock your intellectual/spiritual muscles: 

  1. Get out of your cultural environment at least once a year. This may be something minor like visiting the homeless shelter downtown. Or it may be something more like going on a mission trip to the other side of the world.
  2. Make sure that you have unbelieving friends who can challenge you. They ask great questions.
  3. Examine the best defense of positions with which you currently do not agree. They have reasons for believing the way they do; they are not just stupid.
  4. Attend a church outside your tradition at least six times a year. Why six? It just sounded like a good number. Plus you don’t want to become disconnected from those in your local fellowship. If you like, bring some of them along and then evaluate the experience afterward.
  5. Blog your thoughts. This will force you to articulate your thinking in a much more precise way.
  6. Enroll in TTP! That will be a shocker, believe me!
  7. Enter into debates in web forums. If you win, then you better understand the strength of your position. But also, be ready to lose and change your position. You are not necessarily going there to win, but to learn.

While we all have a exercise routine that is very valuable, we need a shock every so often. We also have a spiritual and intellectual routine, but it needs a shock as well. Happy shock therapy!

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry