I have the opportunity to share something from God’s Word and His heart on the first Sunday of every month. It may not seem like the best situation for doing a series, but I’ve really felt the urge to cover an entire book of the Bible, cover-to-cover. So, for the next 10 months, I’m walking through Paul’s letter the Philippian believers with our congregation. Well, it’s really a 12 month commitment, but I just finished my second month covering Philippians 1:12-18.
You can listen to my talk here.
The more I study and observe the state of Christianity and discipleship around me, the more I am convinced that most of what is holding the Church back from it’s mission is the Church – or rather the odd ideas and practices that have leached into our collective conscience disguised as biblical teaching, preaching, and doctrine.
One such idea I have started calling the “Fallacy of the Fragile Gospel”. It’s the idea that the Gospel is so precarious that unless we are completely sinless, have perfect knowledge of scripture and doctrine, and are fully equipped for the works of the ministry, we risk damaging the Gospel or making it ineffectual.
While righteousness and holiness are important, a sound, working knowledge of scripture and Biblical doctrine are powerful, and discipleship and preparation for ministry is key, holding the Gospel as if it is a fragile egg results in some pretty unbiblical behaviours:
- Failure to Launch – I love this video by the folks at RightNow.org – Fire Station Failure – that pretty much says it.
- New == Bad – Face it, the Church hates to be thought of as “experimental”. “We have never done it that way before” can be the death of Holy Spirit inspired, creative, and innovative methods of fulfilling our mission. What we forget, is that almost every method of ministry while possibly being Biblically informed, started some place and some time after the early church. It is hard to find soccer camps, mommy blogs, pay-what-it’s-worth coffee houses, or digging wells in Niger as biblically defined methods of spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- Borrowed Faith – I have to admit that I am often suspicious of people who constantly quote their favourite radio preacher, Christian writer or blogger, or copy step-by-step the methods or techniques of some historical giant of the faith. While I am all for learning from the examples of those who came before us, dogmatically trying to preach the Gospel like Charles H. Spurgeon, or pray for provision for your ministry with the words of George Mueller is more likely a sign that you are worried God can’t use you as you are.
- Calling in the Professionals – Nothing bugs me quite like hearing, “My new friend seems open to the Gospel so I invited then to church this Sunday. Is there going to be a salvation message?” “No, Sister Sally, this week we will be sharing muffin recipes – maybe you should share what Jesus did for you during your 20 years as a disciple with them and see what happens.” (This is what I would like to say, anyway.)
In my past life as a geek and business leader, I learned a number of things that seem to help combat this idea of a fragile Gospel:
- Release Early, Release Often – used in open source software development, the idea is that it is better get your application out there in front of real users as soon as possible to find out what is broken, what could be better and what isn’t needed. Our mission and ministry should be like that. Jesus sent the disciples out long before they where “perfected”.
- Authenticity and Honesty Trumps Polish and Hype – Being straight with customers about the quarks and weaknesses of a product or service has won me way more loyalty and trust than trying to come off as Superman selling a magic cure-all. Unless we fully understand the nature of God, Jesus, the Scriptures and God’s plan and purpose for mankind and each individual, chance are we don’t have all the answers. We work out our salvation and renew our minds daily.
- Failure and Defeat are NOT the Same Thing – I used to teach Test First Development – without getting into details, the idea was to create tests that would fail until the code worked as expected. Often we would right code, run the tests, and watch as each iteration came closer and closer to %100 green or all test passed. At no time did the failures indicate that we should quit or admit defeat. All too often in Church I have had a single failure brought up as a reason not to continue or not to try again. I learned to think of failures as the guideposts for moving forward and defeat as the sign that there is no forward path to be found.