We’ve all been there: your church-going friend asks you, “Hey! Have you heard of such-and-such book? It’s amazing. My Bible study group has started going through it, and man, is it powerful.” Note: You can insert in here any Christian book or study that has caught the popular eye in Christian circles.
If you have been a believer for 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 such as book studies, new programmes to achieve greater impact, 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 you could probably list after thinking through the way the ministry you 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 and making disciples? If Jesus was in our church would He do what we do?
The evaluation of our ministry boils down to understanding our motives – the why behind what we do. While megachurches may 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. Its 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 was never pressurised into using the latest or greatest Nazareth synagogue programme or book. He wasn’t recommending specific rabbinical texts, or renowned philosophers of His time to His followers. His ministry was solely based on doing the will of the Father. After His death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus’ life and example became the primary focus of the early church. In 1 John 2:6, the disciple John says, “Whoever claims to live in him (Jesus) must walk as Jesus did.” Paul says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1. Paul reiterates this when he says to the church at Thessalonica, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1Thess 1:6).
While great Christian literature exists to help readers interpret Scripture more clearly, or to better themselves, it is something that never really received Jesus’ stamp of approval. God is definitely not beyond inspiring Christian authors, but let us be careful to evaluate what we are leaning on the most. Let us immerse ourselves in the one Book that has been recommended to us by God and refuse to let it become obscured as a mantelpiece or bookend.
When selecting a new study for our congregation, or programme to run, 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. From what we see of the early church things were not much different.
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 down throughout the centuries. It did so because Jesus’ vision was clear: do the will of the Father.
As Christians, we must also be clear on our vision, and that is simply, do what Jesus did.
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 about His mission: Love God, love others, make disciples. When new ideas come our way, let us always ask the question: Will it help us do what Jesus did or will it just be another fad? Let us not be distracted by fads, but remember that our ministry model must continually come back to alignment with Jesus.