In The Beginning There Were Index Cards

It was the summer of 1995. I had just made a decision to leave Shepherd Ministries the organization that produced The Student Conference With Dawson McAllister to go out on my own.  But go where to do what? I had no idea. At the time Acquire The Fire, Student Life, and Dare To Share were just beginning to grow as  conference ministries. Dawson’s conferences were the best attended nation wide student events, there really wasn’t anywhere “up” for a guy like me to go. But “up” was exactly what I was not interested in.

Most of my ministry to that point in time was as an illusionist. I was typically brought in to give a clever presentation of the gospel using “gasp” magic tricks. Sure Dawson had allowed me to teach a few conferences on my own, and I enjoyed working with my ministry team which included Todd Proctor and Chris Tomlin with whom I had travelled the country. Going it alone would be lonely for sure without their companionship. But the decision had been made and I only had 8 months before I would jump out of what had been a comfortable ministry environment.

I had always thought that the person who separated evangelism and discipleship should be shot and hung for creating a false dichotomy in the mission of the church. Whatever I moved on to do had to focus on making disciples, but at that time, most discipleship work for teens focused on reading the Bible, praying, and regular church attendance.  I was looking for a more robust model for spiritual formation.

As I read Luke 2:53, the only verse in the canonized scripture that provides insight into Jesus’ maturation from childhood to adulthood, a word popped out that I had only given face value to in the past. The word was “wisdom”.

“Wisdom” is a word we respect quite a bit, something we all hope to acquire in life, but  rarely is “wisdom” something we actively seek to obtain. What if we did?

The WWJD movement was at a highpoint, but students across the country kept scratching their heads and asking me, “I can ask the question, but I really don’t know what he would do??” I knew that wisdom was needed, because it was bigger than facts and data alone. Wisdom was a way of seeing and living in the world that produced beneficial results.

I cracked open the Proverbs and began reading the book over and over again. There was so much practical insight that appeared to be overlooked in spiritual formation. Yes, Billy Graham reads a chapter every day, I knew that, but what about the larger idea of “wisdom” do any of us really understand it? Could the acquisition of wisdom be more than reading the Bible?

I purchased a shopping cart full of index cards and spent the first week of summer writing each proverb individually on a card from chapter 10 up to the sayings of Agur. When I was done I started sorting the proverbs into piles, looking for the essence, the elements of wisdom.

By the end of the summer, I had managed to put the cards into 7 piles first, then got them somewhat comfortably into 3. The nature of those piles has changed somewhat over the years but that was the beginning of a search for Wisdom that I hope to document here in the annals of WisdomHacker.

My journey has taken me into the fields of theology (what does the Bible say about wisdom?), anthropology (how is wisdom viewed in other cultures?), psychology (how is wisdom learned, and held in the mind), to neuroscience (is wisdom biological?) and artificial intelligence (can computers be programmed to be “wise”?).

Recently I’ve been intrigued by the “wisdom of crowds” and thought it was time to open up some ideas and thoughts I’ve had to a larger community of people so that they can be discarded, refuted, question, or built upon. Sometimes these posts will be long, other times short. Sometimes boring and other times insightful (at least I hope).

I’m just foolish enough to try this, thanks for being willing to journey with me. (and if you are wondering what labels I put on those piles of index cards, hang in there, I’ll be posting about them soon).

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3 Responses to In The Beginning There Were Index Cards

  1. lomagirl says:

    I’m interested in the “wisdom” of crowds, too. I think of it as knowledge or intelligence, though- different than what I consider wisdom. My interest partly stems from watching gameshows- the crowd is almost always right- have you noticed?
    We also use it in cooperative learning- you know more when you pool your knowledge. The individual can benefit, not just the group.
    I’ve always been interested in wisdom, too, btw- it sounds like you’ve got a lot of interesting information gathered about it. First, I’ve long thought Solomon wasn’t very wise because he didn’t always apply wisdom in his own life (though I think that one of the problems, or weaknesses of having wisdom is in there being a self blindness to it. ) Also, I wanted to be wise and prayed (still do) for wisdom. (And the self blindness awareness comes from personal experience).
    Okay- one more point- did you notice in the blog after this one, that all the people you consulted were men? Women can be pretty wise too, you know.

    • Mark Matlock says:

      Have you read Surowiecki’s bok on the wisdom of crowds? He provides some exampl in solving problems too, although I would agree, it typically is expressed in the consensual knowledge of a group. Knowledge is an aspect of wisdom, but not the entirety of it for sure. I plan on doing a post about the difference between knowledge and wisdom at some point.

      Solomon’s always been a puzzle for me too, he’s considered wise in scripture yet made some very foolish mistakes, of course, Ecclesiastes and Job explore the limits of man’s knowledge and wisdom. It isn’t perfect, or perfectly applied.

      It doesn’t surprise me that someone would call me out on the lack of females that spoke into my list. Actually, there were some at the table at times, it’s just the men that contributed to the shaping :)

      • lomagirl says:

        Probably a case of the men at the table not letting the women get a word in edgewise.
        I haven’t read that book. I’ve put off that research until I finish the more pressing research required for class. That’s a “someday” topic.

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