You’re Doing It Wrong! Part one of four

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this will transform everything because I just learned about it…

The Temptation

Recently I saw a social media post about how the western church has gotten the whole thing wrong in how we a) raise our children, b) train our leaders, c) baptize people, d) confess sins, e) plant churches, f) sing the star-spangled banner, g) visit Disneyland, h) feed our pet goats… Ok, none of those things are exactly what I’m talking about but you’ve seen this stuff, right? Someone shows us something they have discovered about the way the New Testament did things that has, somehow, eluded Christians for 2000+ years. And, if we’ll buy the book and just dig into the model, we’ll be able to:

  • Turn the power of the Holy Spirit loose in our lives and in our ministries
  • Start a movement like that of the 1st Century
  • Do backflips by Saturday
  • See in the dark like a vampire (but not exactly because they’re evil and we’re not)

Paradigm Shifts

Before I get too harsh, I fully acknowledge that there have been massive, pivotal paradigm shifts in Christian history…I’m not negating that. The Pentecostal movement is an amazing example of God doing something that people experienced as “new.” Martin Luther’s stance at the Diet of Worms, D.L. Moody and the “Great Century” of Christian Missions!¹ I would say, however, that these things are not very common and one of the key marks of those kinds of historical pivots is massive opposition and aggression against those who are moving to the new model. As someone who taught missions history for years, I am passionate to learn what helps drive those things.

Also, I’m not advocating to just accept uninformed, perceived orthodoxy. Learning and growing my whole life has been a huge blessing! There are some smart people out there who have amazing knowledge that’s extremely helpful! We need to capitalize on that.

AND, I’m not negating entrepreneurship and passion for new models in the church. Those things fascinate me. I love what the Rooted Network is doing for discipleship. New Thing and Exponential; Orchard Group; the city-to-city stuff out of NYC and more are all great examples of people using their skills, passion, and resources to drive growth in the Kingdom of God. But what is wearisome is when someone comes up with the idea that our fundamental problem is that we’ve been doing it wrong because our forebears just didn’t know and, because we’re just blindly following their footsteps, we didn’t know either…

Assuming what now?

I remember the first time I became aware that some of my well-intended generosity to people in poverty was making their poverty worse–not better. I was assuming the cause of their problem. In anthropology/missiology talk they would use the words “emic” (insider) viewpoints or “etic” (outsider) viewpoints.  I was assuming what the people I was trying to help needed. My assumptions seemed like common sense to me and I was offended anyone would be so cold-hearted as to not pity the poor like I had.
Since that time, I’ve heard people (from the stage) say things like:

You don’t need any education to serve God! Just get out there and do it! (or vice versa)…

Spiritual Disciplines actually are bad for the church… they turn people into “guilt-ridden introverts.”

Going Deep is for selfish people but you need to know your Bible

If you’re not making disciples in your own neighborhood, you have no right to be a leader in the church

“Organic” is way more [sic] better and spiritual than “Organized.”

etc…

To be fair, sometimes it’s that it’s a new thing to that person and they might be assuming that no one else knows either! I was TERRIBLY guilty of this early in my ministry. I still cringe at  some of my prophetic statements I made to my older church members about what “God was doing.”  Recently I was with some church leader friends and the talk swung around to the idea that it was time for the small, neighborhood and/or rural churches to just be done. “We need action!” was the common consensus. After a bit, my silence prompted some questions and my response was twofold: I came to Christ in a church like that, and my Dad would never (ever) thrive at a megachurch like mine. Now that doesn’t somehow make one model inherently better, but there is something awesome about a church trying to reach their community OR being faithful to their parish for hundreds of years…

 

Theologizing Preference

Here’s where the problem really lies: When we baptize our methodology and preferences with the phrase “The New Testament Model.” When I hear that I tend to ask (in my mind, of course), “Which model?” There was the “culturally-divided-but-racially-homogenous group” in Jerusalem in Acts 2/4. The “kill-you-if-you-lie-in-church” model in Acts 5, the “Serving? No thanks” model in Acts 6, the Persecuted of Acts 8, the “break out” model in Acts 13, the “let’s-let-the-leaders-decide” model of Acts 15 etc… Which one do you want?

Get Off My Lawn

I know that posts like this can smack of grumpy attitudes… But that’s not my heart. It’s actually to encourage you to greater wisdom and service where God has called you now and what he is calling you to in the future! Clarity of thought is helpful in times like this…In fact, these are the kinds of things that have brought joy, passion, and purpose in new ways to me and many others. In music, sports, business and many other facets of life, learning the fundamentals advances us in amazing and helpful ways.

For the next three posts, I’m going to work on a pathway to work on some of the fundamentals and some of the core competencies of Christian leadership that are helpful in the long run. The topic matter is dense but I’ll try my best to be clear. It will start with an evaluation of three ministries from varied backgrounds that all had far, far-reaching effects but drastically different methods. The second will be about how cultural norms affect both what is needed and what can be done. And the last will be about the nature of the Spiritual effects and forces that face us as we work inside of God’s power as He expands His Kingdom.

I hope this will be helpful! Please feel free to share if you’d like!

Rob


¹This is a term from historian Kenneth Scott Latourette about the massive Christian Explosion in the 1800’s

2 thoughts on “You’re Doing It Wrong! Part one of four

  1. sbhenschen says:

    I can’t wait to read the next three! I’ve been praying and thinking about some of the same things lately. Thanks for bringing these subjects up in a public place. Sometimes it’s difficult to have these conversations inside and outside of the church.

    Like

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