Methods, People, and Culture will Change–The Gospel Does Not

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper once said, “The most damaging phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.” Churches have appropriated this language by saying that the seven last words of a dying church are, “We’ve never done it this way before” or “We’ve always done it this way before.” While this certainly may be hyperbole (I’m sure other things were said as well), the comfort that we tend to find in what we’ve always done needs some assessing.

First, what we do was new at one point. I mean, someone had to have the idea, right? Even it that idea was implemented generations ago, it was new at one point. All of our songs that we treasure over the years were not written at the dawn of time. Someone composed them, to greater or lesser reception from congregations. Sunday School was developed by Robert Raikes in 1831 due to the lack of public education in Great Britain. It’s always been that way for us. But consider how indebted we are to those who came up with those original ideas—and we benefit from them greatly, even taking them for granted.

Second, we must consider new ideas for the sake of following generations. So, if past generations came up with ideas of how to get the gospel out that we benefit from in our generation, would it not stand to reason that we should continue to think of new ways and means to get the gospel out so future generations would benefit? Sometimes those ideas are new methods, and sometimes the new ideas are going back to the old paths laid out in Scripture. You see, not all ideas are good, especially those that take us away from what God said in His Word. Sadly, if going back to the Word is new to some, then we begin to recognize where the work lies and how we must prayerfully churn out new ways to get folks back into the old Book and fulfill the Great Commission.

Thirdly, God gives us eyes to access and ears to hear how to address matters that arise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” the apostle Paul says in Romans 10:17. We hear the Word of God, and ARBC provides ample opportunities to hear the Word: Sunday morning Bible study, worship gatherings, midweek Bible studies, women’s studies, and even videos that I put out (showing clearly that I have a face more suited for radio and podcasts than videos, but I digress). Yet, our eyes are able to look around and see the reality of situations and access—and then our ears are hearing God’s Word in moving forward in building Christ’s church that He promised to build (read Matthew 16:13-20).

Fourth, pray for wisdom and discernment about all things moving forward. Many times, we make decisions based on our default thinking: if we are in the business world, or look back to the past, or look to paradigms from other churches, or just from our own knee-jerk reactions from our “gut.” James 1:5-8 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The apostle James, James 1:5-8, English Standard Version

We do not have all the answers, nor do we know the future! But God does, and since He is passionate about His church that His Son is building, He will give us discernment. Yet, if we toggle back and forth between our defaults and His Default (the Word and the Spirit)—well, it’s no wonder many Christians and many churches are unstable.

Our Leaders Retreat on Saturday, February 8 is about Embracing the Mission: being, making, multiplying and sending hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus so that all from Denver to the nations believe Jesus is enough. None of this happens by accident, but only by intentionality. Methods may change, people may change, the culture will change—but the Gospel and His Commission do not.

With hope and joy,

Pastor Matt

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