Some good discussion is brewing in Jailer’s thought-provoking piece, “Ministry Models: Evolutionary and Revolutionary.” Since Jailer referred to me a couple of times in his comments, I thought I better jump into the discussion as well and feed the fire.
I’ve discovered that there’s nothing like living in the “rocky soils” of the world to get a person thinking about the deeply rooted assumptions they hold about life and ministry. Though few will ever have a chance to spend a couple of decades outside their own culture, perhaps the following might pass for a close second.
Imagine a time in America when we enter an age where, just as Jesus predicted, God’s people are hunted down and killed. No more First Amendment Clause to protect our right to freely gather and worship as we please; no more tax-exempt status for church property or Christian organization budgets; no more “full-time” Christian workers receiving a salary for their labor; in short, no more tolerance for God’s people and a great increase in hostility toward us.
God forbid that a time like that should come upon us anytime soon, but if and when it does, will the church as we Americans know it today be able to exist in that environment? What will a “legitimate” church look like to us when religious freedom is gone? Though it may still be a long way off for us in America, it’s a reality in many nations around the world right now, and it's forcing us to take a step back and examine some of our deeply rooted assumptions about ministry in the light of Scripture.
Simply put, if the church (and our mission) cannot be imagined apart from programs, memberships, formal meetings, professional clergy, expository preaching, elaborate organizational structures, and even fundraising and facilities, than the people of Iran and North Korea are truly without hope.
Though that’s the “revolutionary” perspective, it doesn’t make the evolutionary perspective any less valid. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. We see things through different lenses but the body of Christ is big enough for both.