Is There A Message In Our Methods?

A common phrase within the modern church is that the message never changes, but the methods must change. The idea is that we must never change the message of the gospel, the message of the Word of God, the church must be faithful to that message. However, the methods that we use to draw people, the methods that we use to communicate, the methods that we use in services, these we can change, and must change, in order to have a chance for our message to be heard by the world. We need to engage the culture on their terms if we are hoping to give them an opportunity to hear the message of the gospel and God’s Word.

 

There was a time in my life where I partially adopted this type of thinking. I had not thought through the issue thoroughly, but on the face of this it seemed that as long as we do not change anything God has given, why not? In fact, did not Paul say that he became all things to all people so that he might win some? That made this seem not only acceptable, but preferable and Biblical.

However, I would see what some churches were doing and something about it disturbed me in my spirit. For many churches Easter had turned into an opportunity to draw families with candy, the Easter bunny, egg hunts, and I even heard about a helicopter one year. I heard church leaders use the term “church super bowl” in reference to Easter Sunday. The way this particular Sunday was spoken about really bothered me, as I thought about the fact that our role is to honor our resurrected Lord, not excite the masses of people in our community. I also would get wind of what churches would do in their services to make people more comfortable, and some of those things just came across as irreverent to me. All of this led me to think more deeply about what our methods communicate.

 

Allow me to be clear, methodology communicates something, and can be as impactful if not more impactful than the message itself. Imagine a man has expressed a desire to ask a young lady to marry him, so he plans out an evening to make the request. He is going to ask her to go on a surprise date, where they will eat at the nicest restaurant in town. Ahead of time, he is going to have given the manager the engagement ring and ask him to bring it to the table at the same time as dessert in a separate serving dish. When she sees the ring, he will grab the dish, drop to one knee, and loudly ask in front of everyone, “Will you marry me?” He has it all planned out.

 

But before he begins to implement his plan, he speaks to a church leader who shares with him that the methods we use in communicating are unimportant, what is really important is the message. As long as the message is still there, and clear, the methods do not matter. So the man begins to think about the expense and hassle of his plan, and decides that these church leaders must know what they are talking about. He then jumps on his phone, opens up his text messages, and texts his potential bride to be, not likely now though, “Will you marry me?” Quickly, the man learns something the church leader has yet to realize, method makes all the difference in the world, and it can communicate far more than the message does.

Think about the two scenarios, as goofy as they may be. The first scenario, the woman knows the man has taken a lot of time to plan out this opportunity to pop the question. She knows the message must be important to him because of all the time he took, whereas in the second scenario, the man communicates that his message is not worth more time than a few seconds. When the man drops to one knee in front of the whole restaurant, he is unashamed to ask this woman in front of everyone, but if she receives a text in private, he could be communicating he really is not confident in his message or that he is embarrassed to ask her. In other words, methodology makes all the difference in the world.

 

Likewise, the methodology of the church makes all the difference in the world. When we use fun primarily to draw people into our assembly, we are communicating that it is okay for fun to be your priority. Are we really going to draw them in through their own selfish desires and then turn around and ask them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus? Worse than that, we are communicating that Jesus is really not all that exciting, just a necessary accessory if we want to make it to heaven. If Jesus was that exciting, if Jesus was center stage in our lives and we believed Jesus needed to be center stage in everyone’s life, would we not lead with that exciting news confidently?

If Jesus was that exciting...would we not lead with that exciting news confidently?

This also goes for how we conduct our services when we are together. Our methodology there also sends forth a message. When a church prays brief, quick prayers all of the time in their services, they communicate something about prayer to their people, but when they spend five or ten minutes in prayer, they communicate something very different about prayer, and about the God they are worshiping. When a church has all her music focused on what one group desires, she communicates something about meeting people’s wants rather than singing to the Lord, but when a church has a variety of music that keeps the focus on God, she communicates the value of the One to whom we are singing.

 

The length of the sermon, the fervency of the preaching, the loudness of the instruments, the loudness of the singing, the way people dress, how much Scripture reading is done, all of these methods communicate something about the message, about what we believe, about what we hold dear. There is more we could say about what God expects from us in these areas, but that may be for another post at a future date.

 

Methodology truly matters and impacts the message in a much greater way than many church leaders believe. May every church seriously consider that they not only remain faithful in the gospel message they speak, but seek to remain faithful in what their methodology communicates as well.