The issue that we are going to be dealing with in this series of articles is a philosophy of ministry issue.
As we develop a philosophy of ministry, we must realize that it will impact all that we do in our ministries.
And when we seek to implement a Biblical philosophy of ministry, we will quickly perceive that there are voices in the church which propose concepts that actually lead us away from Biblical truth. Certainly, this is a hot-button issue within the body of Christ today.
What you will discover in a lot of churches is there are people on the same page in terms of their belief system—they may believe in the Trinity, the inerrancy of the Bible, the inspiration of the Bible—but they disagree in terms of how church is to be done. This is more of a philosophy of ministry-type of issue.
It is very important that we delve into this discussion, because it has been recurring over and over again through many different types of churches for the past several decades, and will continue to do so—whether you are in the Bible church movement or part of a Baptist church, a Calvary Chapel or any other church out there. All of them are wrestling with this whole issue of ministry philosophy.
Here, specifically, is the heart of the matter that confronts us: Do we need to embrace a new ministry paradigm that is more suited to our contemporary, technology-driven society? Or should we maintain the older, traditional vision for ministry that we have received from “those who led” us (Heb. 13:7)? I am hearing some articulate ideas today that, to me, are very troubling. And all churches will be facing these philosophy of ministry-type issues, if they have not already done so.
But we can also use the tension that results from such discussions as a teaching tool to help us as we struggle with whether or not we will accept the new ministry paradigm as the model for our ministries.
Nine Troubling Ideas
How do we define this new ministry paradigm?
In this series, we are going to think through nine troubling ideas—screening each of them against the authority of God’s Word. These nine ideas have been proposed by well-meaning spiritual leaders who are attempting to get people to refocus their ministries to meet the challenges offered by the current generation of young people. In this article, we will consider just the first of these nine troubling ideas.
There is a tendency to reach the youth at the expense of the truth.
We all want to reach the youth. But what if the youth do not want to hear the truth?
Sometimes people say in this regard that we need to stop teaching Bible prophecy because younger people want to hear a more positive message, and thus an emphasis on prophecy will drive people out of the church.
Now, I understand over-emphasis. I understand painting an imbalanced picture, which we should not do.
But there is a mindset that is very much in existence that we have to change the content of what we are teaching to reach young people. When you get into the research and start reading emergent church writers, you discover that this is a pervasive theme. It is the idea that there are these millennials—or even younger—out there that are so unique, so different, so distinct, that if we do not do a top-to-bottom reshuffling of our entire teaching process and ministry philosophy, they cannot be reached.
Dan Kimball expressed this sentiment when he wrote:
New generations are arising all around us without any Christian influence. So we must rethink virtually everything we are doing in our ministries.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Cor. 9:19-22)
But did Paul mean that we should do this at the expense of toning down those things that God directs us to emphasize? The answer is that clearly he did not.
The fact of the matter is, every generation is unique—but every generation is the same. Every generation has the same spiritual need before God. They are separated from a holy God because of sin, and each one needs the clarion call of the gospel and the presentation of God’s grace.
When I became a Christian at age 16 in 1983, I do not remember anyone toning down prophecy for my sake. In fact, when I was still a very new Christian, the man who led me to Christ took me through a study in the book of Revelation just shortly thereafter. As a brand new Christian, I was amazed at what I discovered. I was fascinated with the details that I was seeing for the first time. I found Biblical truth—even in the area of Bible prophecy—to be attractive.
Many times we may succumb to the either-or fallacy. This is the notion that the answer must be either A or B—when in reality it can be both A and B.
In other words, should we teach Bible prophecy, or should we reach the youth? My answer is, Yes!
Teaching Bible prophecy does reach the youth. In fact, it reached me.
We should not over-emphasize prophecy more than the Bible does, certainly.
Is the current generation of youth totally different and unique? What does the Bible say about that? Notice Jesus’ words in John 12:32:
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
The fact of the matter is that, while I understand that every generation has unique needs, people are people. We are all lost in Adam’s sin, and we all have the same basic spiritual need. God wants to reach us all through the exact same message.
Now, at my church we use multimedia presentations to communicate the truth. The church where I grew up did not do this. We use it at our church because I think it helps to enhance the message. I would not use it if I thought it subtracted from the message. But it is the exact same message! Our methods may change slightly, but the message never changes. And our focus must remain upon that message.
I hear many times that we need to tone down the message in order to attract the youth. But that is not our calling. In fact, the youth—probably more than any other category today—need to hear the truth. We cannot afford to fail in fulfilling 2 Timothy 2:2:
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
May God help us to remain strong in the truth at this critical hour in history—for, indeed, we must reach the youth with the truth!
Editor’s Note: This blog was compiled with the assistance of Paul J. Scharf,
editor in chief of Dispensational Publishing House,
and is taken from the video that you can watch in its entirety below.
(Read Part 2)
Dr. Andy Woods is a prolific author and speaks nationally on Bible prophecy and related issues. He is senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Sugar Land, Texas, and the new president of Chafer Theological Seminary in Albuquerque, N.M. We greatly value the opportunity to work with him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
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Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)