Emergent, Seeker Sensitive, traditional, liturgical, purpose driven, etc. Pastors and church leaders today seem to have many options for how they approach the ministry of the local church and specifically the Sunday gatherings.
In the past I have often been rather harsh in my criticism over the pastors who seem to be so eager to try out whatever fad or method comes down the evangelical stream. My frustration was based by in large on my convictions, which are strong.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself why. Why do they do this? Why are they so attracted to pragmatism? Why are they so eager to bite at something that might work?
I have sat face to face with a seasoned and, by many standards, successful church growth pastor from the Willow Creek school. I have asked these questions.
By in large the answers pivoted on a desire to see people come to Christ and the ministry of the church to expand. In other words they have a burden for people and believe in their message.
What drives these guys?
But as I talked to him and processed what else I have read and seen in this movement I was struck by another reality. This reality is the pressure to produce or succeed.
I think this really drives these guys.
They are under pressure from leadership and themselves to produce results; and produce them quickly.
So what do they do? The grab what would logically work and has some record of quick results. Many believe that it will work and it is working.
However, I want to propose another option. This option is not quick. It is not easy. It is does not liberate you from burdens. But it does a couple of things, a) it works, b) it makes you dependent upon God’s grace in your midst.
What I am talking about is centering all of church ministry on the ministry of the word. Specifically I am talking about an expository pulpit ministry and a dynamic discipleship ministry. This verse by verse preaching within the context of Scripture with an eye towards the Bible’s overall narrative point helps to feed and equip hungry and thirsty people. And further because the ministry is word (gospel) centered and people focused (contra program focused) then it has immediate integration with and application to life.
But here is the down side: it takes time. Sometimes this takes a lot of time. And the ironic thing is, because so many guys are ‘doing church’ according to these various fads and methods that seem to be rooted in the pragmatic methods of business than the pastoral epistles, there is a lot of pastoral elbow grease that needs to go into cleaning out the biblical grid of church. This takes time. It also takes time with new Christians. It takes time with mature Christians. This is hard work, many times, without immediate results. However, what you do have immediately is the affirmation and consolation of Scripture that it is what is right (Eph. 4.13-17; 1 Tim. 4.13; 2 Tim. 4.1-4).
I’m seeing it ‘work’
I also want to say that I am beginning to see more and more ‘results’ if you will. I am seeing more and more people who are growing in their understanding of, love for, and obedience to the Savior. Their are many, from various backgrounds, some in regeneration and others in revival, with the common experience of growth and delight in Jesus. So I say from both Scriptural convictions and personal experience that it does work. A word centered, preaching heavy, discipleship focused ministry will work. It just takes time. But, it is so worth it.