Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Least Common Denominator in Ministry - repost

We need appetites for Kingdom things. Those come when we get more than we can handle.

There is something that frustrates me in Christian Ministry. We have the capacity and even tendency to appeal to the least common denominator. Don't believe me? Some experiences from the past two months might sway you...

I was at a youth camp in Texas. The music was okay. The preaching was okay. The appeals from the stage were okay. Everything about the darn thing was okay. But nothing was outstanding. Nothing pushed the students and adults far beyond their capacity. There were challenges, but even those were just okay.

I watched a preacher on television. That was Mistake #1, I know. But this guy talked about having faith and blessings. No repentance. No glory of God. No cross. No sin. Hardly any Scripture. But faith and blessings? Yep. No wonder we're shallow.

I listened to KSBJ, our local radio station. They play the song too, but it was on the 20: The Countdown Magazine program - which is the Christian version of the Top 40. The song was by a group called Kutless entitled What Faith Can Do. The chorus: I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains / Hope that doesn’t ever end / Even when the sky is falling / I’ve seen miracles just happen / Silent prayers get answered / Broken hearts become brand new / That’s what faith can do. My issue, which I passionately told the radio about, is that it's not faith that does those things. IT'S GOD. God heals, answers prayers, sustains the saints, delivers, mends broken hearts (Ps. 147.3 for instance). On and on I could go.

I'm griping. I admit it. But I don't think I'm wrong. And what's more, I think this entire situation is reflective of a mindset where the least common denominator is our target. That sure seems to me to dishonor God.

I told this story at church a few weeks ago, so forgive me if you were in the audience. I was in 9th grade and my friend C.J. and I played basketball, worked out, and went to Mr. Gatti's just about every day in the summer. He had a car, so he was the driver. It was a great time.

Working out and playing ball burned a ton of calories. We did about 4 hours per day of this, so when it came to be lunch time, we were not just hungry teenagers, we were really hungry teenagers. We ate a lot of pizza from the buffet. We decided to see how many pieces we could eat and, by the end of the summer, we each ate 28 pieces of pizza. In a single setting. With Dr. Pepper to wash it down.

That's gluttonous. I know. I'm not holding myself up as an example. But there is something worth learning from that story: the more you eat, the more your appetite can grow.

It's absolutely true in ministry. The more you take in, even if you don't get it all, understand it all, process it all, like it all, or apply it all, the more you can take in the next time. Ministry should create appetites in the people being ministered to, not just shoot to give everyone a little bit.

One place I've seen it happen in the past year is with our students at church. Kyle, our student pastor, has done a great job teaching them the Bible and giving them way more than they can handle. But our students have grown tremendously from it. Their knowledge and experience are proof that shooting for the lowest common denominator so as not to offend someone doesn't have to be the only ministry model available. It may sell books, it may get records to #1, but does it really produce disciples of Jesus Christ?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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