We’ve all been there: your church-going, buddy, believer friend asks you, “Hey! Have you heard of The Purpose Driven Life? It’s amazing. My Bible study group has started going through it, and man, is it powerful.” Note: this is not a knock on Rick Warren’s book that really has impacted Christians’ spiritual lives in positive ways. You can insert any new Christian book or study that has caught the popular eye amongst Christian circles.
If you have been a believer for really any length of time, chances are, you have heard (and will continue to hear) of the latest and greatest trends in Christian culture. These trends, or fads, can take on various forms like book studies, fancy graphics to accompany this month’s series title, and even the way new church attenders are welcomed (ahem, free tea, coffee, and cake). While these are just a few examples, there are more that maybe you could list after thinking through the way the ministry you have been or are currently a part of operates.
While fads are not necessarily wrong, they most certainly merit scrutiny through the lens of Jesus’ ministry; would Jesus be pleased to see this happening in our ministry? Would Jesus find this necessary? How did Jesus go about gaining followers?
The evaluation of our ministry, my friends, boils down to understanding our motives – the why behind what we do. While megachurches might seem to have got it – whatever it may be – we must continually ask ourselves: Am I following a fad? Or, am I following Jesus’ example?
Fad: An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived; a craze.
The celebrity talk show host, Oprah Winfrey recommends books every month for her followers to enjoy as much as she has. These lucky books might even receive the Oprah stamp of approval on their next cover design. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of Oprah’s Book Club novels would have been obscured in libraries, had they not made her club.
If you think about it, Jesus never had a book club. He wasn’t recommending specific rabbinical texts, or renown philosophers of his time to his followers. His ministry was solely based on doing the will of the Father.
While great Christian literature is out there for readers to interpret Scripture more clearly, or to better themselves, it is something that never really received Jesus’ “stamp of approval.” God definitely is not beyond inspiring Christian authors, but let us be careful what we are leaning on the most. Let us immerse ourselves in the One book that has been recommended to us by God and not let it become obscured as a mantelpiece or bookend.
Isn’t it interesting – after 2000+ years, the Bible is the most widely read book in the world. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have all we need to understand what to base our ministry on.
When selecting a new study for our congregation, or purchasing a newer sound system for the worship team, or giving the go-ahead for a higher budget on the church coffee, may we always come back to one thing: Jesus’ model.
While following the latest and greatest fads can seemingly attract a crowd, let us remember that Jesus was never about attracting a crowd. While Jesus did care about saving souls, he was primarily focused on building a movement that cost his followers everything. Jesus’ movement was pretty unattractive to a lot of people, like the rich man in Matthew 19 who cared more about keeping his possessions than following Jesus.
Had Jesus opted for the popular methods of his time, the movement would have been short-lived and forgotten about long before us; actually, it would have been just another fad. Yet, Jesus’ movement of disciplemaking persisted through unpopular opinion, persecution, and through centuries – and it is because his vision was clear: do the will of the Father.
As Christians, we must also be clear on our vision, and that is simply, Jesus.
Having a clear sense of direction will prevent leaders from pursuing fads. When leaders understand God’s plans and purposes for their organizations, decision making becomes more straightforward. When a new opportunity arises, leaders ask, “Will this opportunity take us closer to where God is leading, or will it distract us?” When leaders have no God-given vision, one option can appear as attractive as another. Anyone can decide between good and bad options, but choosing between two seemingly good possibilities can be agonizing for leaders unless they know which one is consistent with the God-given vision. Leaders who are constantly waffling reveal that they do not know where they are going.
–Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
Jesus was clear on his mission: Love God, love others, make disciples. Let us not be distracted by fads, but remember that our ministry model must continually come back to alignment with Jesus.