Earlier today I posted the following quote as a status on my Facebook page:
”The church can’t use yesterday’s methods in today’s world and expect to be in ministry tomorrow.” Elmer Towns
I read over this quote as I was doing my textbook reading for one of my seminary classes. It got my attention and I agreed with it so I posted it on Facebook. I didn’t think it would get anything feedback other than a few “likes” but it got some negatives comments with people who didn’t agree. I am perfectly ok with people disagreeing with this quote and I do not believe it is anything worth fighting over. But as a response to everyone who agreed or disagreed, I wanted to share, at least how I believe, we can change our methods, but not change our message. The message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will always be the same, but as we do ministry in an ever changing world our methods may have to change as well. Here are three ways to think about when changing to new methods in ministry:
1. Know what things are “closed hand” issues and what things are “open-handed” issues. What I mean by this is that there are some things such as core doctrines of our faith that we cannot compromise on or allow to be left up to interpretation. These are doctrines such as the Trinity, Scripture being God’s perfect Word, salvation only through Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, and things like that. These are doctrines and truths we must hold with a “closed hand” and fight for. These doctrines are the foundation to our faith! But there are some issues that are “open-handed” issues that are not necessarily foundational to our faith that we can allow compromise and disagreement on while still being believers in Christ. Examples of this would be Bible translations, style of worship music, and denominations. These are issues that don’t determine your faith in Christ, but our issues the Bible may not speak directly to so we use the wisdom and discernment given to us by God to make personal preference choices. “Open handed” issues are simply preferences and we cause damage to other Christians when we take something that is a preference and make it a doctrine or Biblical truth. My theology professor back at Piedmont International University said, “Don’t major on the minors and minor on the majors.” Make sure you know what things are major and what things are minor. This will help you decided how to change your methods, but not the message.
2. Pray and use wisdom. When it comes to methods, which are just preferences, we need to use the God-given wisdom and Holy Spirit to help us. When you want to try a new method, seek God for wisdom. Your new method idea may not be wrong or sinful, but God might give you wisdom and help you see it might not be best at the time. Even though methods are preferences and are different for everyone, that doesn’t mean you should leave God out of it. God wants us to use methods that are honoring to Him, so use wisdom and talk to Him about it!
3. Be so passionate about the message that you use whatever method God puts in front of you. Some people may not agree with me about this, but I believe we should be so passionate about the Gospel, the message, that we will use whatever method God gives us. I believe some people are so afraid and against new methods that they never reach anyone with the message! There are churches that dyeing and not reaching anyone because they are not willing to change their methods. That is what the Elmer Towns quote is all about, change our methods so we can reach more people with the message. I believe the Gospel, the message, is so important that I am willing to try to use whatever method is put in front of me as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s Word. I hope you feel the same way.
I love the Gospel and I believe it is the only thing that can change a person’s life and give them a hope. I believe this because the Gospel changed my life and has given me a hope! I hope we love the Gospel enough to use the new methods God gives us as we live in this changing world.