“Knowledge transfer,” or KT, is a popular business buzzword. Unlike some buzzwords, it means exactly what it sounds like. When I was working for GE, whenever we changed jobs or moved responsibilities around, there was a concerted effort to bring new people up to speed by dedicated knowledge transfer sessions. Not only would the predecessor in a role (if they were still with the company) transfer knowledge to the new person, but so would people who had complementary responsibilities (such as a collections rep reviewing past history with a new sales rep). The whole point of this was to make sure that things continued to run smoothly and that except for a new face and name, the change was completely seamless for customers or other outside parties.
While neither the body of Christ nor the local congregation are businesses, there is still a great need for intentional knowledge transfer. This isn’t always completely obvious to us. After all, unlike a business, everything we theoretically need in order to be pleasing to God and do the work of the Lord has been written down for us in the best policy and procedures manual ever devised: the Bible. We note (and rightly so) that the Scriptures are sufficient to equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3.16–17). If ever knowledge were lost among God’s people, it could be regained, as happened historically in the Restoration Movement, simply by people returning to the word of God as their source of authority in all things.
But even with that provision for us, the Scriptures still place significance on the transfer of knowledge from believer to believer and from generation to generation.
Transfer from Believer to Unbeliever
The writer of Hebrews quoted from Jeremiah when he wrote to his audience in chapter 8, “I will put my hearts into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Did Jeremiah’s words mean that there would be absolutely no need to communicate information? No, rather, a contrast was being made between the Old Covenant, where individuals entered the covenant by birth and had to be taught about the covenant they were already under, and the New Covenant, where people enter already having knowledge of the Lord and choosing to enter into the covenant because of that knowledge.
But how do they get that knowledge? Paul famously wrote in Romans 10, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” While it is possible for someone to read the Scriptures and come to an accurate knowledge of the truth for themselves, it is far easier if one already acquainted with the Scriptures provides this knowledge. Hence why it is important for us to follow in the footsteps of the apostles and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Transfer from Teacher to Learner
But even once we enter into the New Covenant, the transfer of knowledge is important. This was one reason why we even have a written New Testament, so that the teachings of Jesus, of the apostles, and of other inspired men could be preserved. Peter said in 2 Peter 1 that he was making sure that even after he departed, his readers would be able to call certain things to mind. But this transfer of knowledge isn’t limited to inspired men writing things down as directed by the Spirit. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2.2 to take the things he had learned and entrust them to faithful men who would be able to teach others also.
While the teachings of faithful men are not themselves on the same level as the inspired writings (a point that is missed by others who seek to apply this particular verse), such teachings do provide a helpful starting point as each of us seeks to understand the will of God. The teaching of faithful men is seen most readily as preachers proclaim God’s word in the assembly, but also as instruction is provided in other circumstances, and even as it is written down.
Transfer from Experienced to Inexperienced
Perhaps as a special application of the transfer of knowledge from teacher to learner, it is important for knowledge to be transferred from those with experience in some area of life to those who have yet to experience it or who are currently experiencing it. Note Paul’s instruction to older women to “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2.3b–5). The young women, who may be new to the realities of being a wife and mother, need encouragement from thse who have done it and have done it successfully. The same point can be made of married couples generally, and of parents, and of other situations. The elders are held up in Scripture as examples to the believers (1 Pet 5.3), perhaps at least part of the reason for certain qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The experienced teaching the inexperienced doesn’t necessarily require an organized congregational effort. Usually, it just requires those with experience to be alert for those without who may benefit from an example.
Transfer from Parent to Child
There is perhaps no relationship where knowledge transfer is more important than that of a parent and a child. A parent has a particular spiritual charge to bring up children in the way that they should go, and especially fathers. Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6.4). While mothers do play an important role in the spiritual formation of their children, it is a responsibility that falls heavily on the father as the head of the household. It is critically important that knowledge of the Lord be transferred to children so that they may one day make the decision to serve the Lord as their God for the rest of their lives.
The Scriptures are the revelation of the mind of God and the basis of all truth. But it is the transfer of knowledge from one person to the next that facilitates (makes easier) the knowledge and application of the will of God in our lives. While such transferred knowledge must be compared to the Scripture, it can save hardship and grief as we benefit from the study and experience of those who have walked the road ahead of us, and as others benefit from our own walk.