After five decades spent obsessing over a warped notion of "relevance," American evangelicalism is overrun with "change agents" who are so steeped in worldly values that they can't distinguish true relevance from mere trendiness. Their philosophies of ministry are complex, wrong-headed, counterproductive, and hostile to the notion that some things—namely God Himself and the truth He has revealed in His Word—are by definition not susceptible to change.
By contrast, what Paul bequeathed to Timothy in two brief epistles was a remarkably simple, straightforward, but comprehensive ministry philosophy. Not only did Paul not urge Timothy to be innovative; what he did urge Timothy to do flatly contradicts practically every ministry philosophy currently in vogue.
This is part 1 in a series of posts I intend to write in the days to come.
onsider the undue stress today's leading church-growth gurus invariably put on innovation. We are relentlessly told that pastors and church leaders must be novel, "contemporary," cutting-edge—architects of change within the church.
Evangelicals have been obsessing for at least four decades about "relevance." But that word as used in evangelical circles has become practically synonymous with novelty and fashionableness. It has little to do with actual relevance.
Of course, the church's only true relevance lies in her role as a community where God's Word is proclaimed, where the whole counsel of God is taught, and from which the gospel is taken into the world. But when a church nowadays advertises itself as "relevant," we know exactly what is meantand let's be honest: it isn't about anything Paul told Timothy to do; it's about being "innovative."
Consider how an organization like Leadership Network sells itself: "Leadership Network seeks to help leaders navigate the future by exploring new ideas and finding application for each unique context." "Our free indispensable twice-monthly email newsletter featur[es] the best in innovative church strategies." Podcasts feature "numerous conversations about various topics of church innovation." The organization sponsors three series of books:
- Leadership Network Publications (Jossey-Bass) present thoroughly researched and innovative concepts from leading thinkers, practitioners and pioneering churches.
- The Leadership Network Innovation Series (Zondervan) presents case studies and insights from leading practitioners and pioneering churches that are successfully navigating the ever-changing cultural landscape.
- The Exponential Series (Zondervan) highlights the innovative practices of healthy, reproducing churches.
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5).