Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Humility and Problem Definition - The Heart of the "New 95 Theses Project"

Isaiah 6:5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips..."

I have begun asking myself a very specific question with a very specific deliverable as the questions answer.
The question: What are the most vital areas that we the church are in need of change?
The deliverable: How can these vital few areas be expressed in a series of theses in much the same way as Luther presented his call to reformation?

Prophetic or Pathetic
Immediately in even asking such a question, my mind is filled with caution. First, there are a million critics in the church. We all, if we have spent any time in the evangelical churches, have met the dissatisfied. We hear calls that, "The church doesn't pray enough"; "the church is Laodicean"; "church leaders are controlling and we need to break down the barriers between clergy and laity". Or we hear the basic consumeristic criticism, "The worship is too slow"; "The worship is too fast"; "The preacher preaches too long"; "The sermon wasn;t biblical"; "I like application"; "I like expositional preaching"...

Two problems with criticism:
1. Prescribing solutions. It is a poor strategy in implementing change to act like an armchair quarterback. Problems are always far more complex than we usually assume. Before we prescribe solutions, we need to have dialogue on what the problems really are.
2. Taking ownership. Being disgruntled is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Humility on the other hand is the spring from which all virtue flows. God gives grace to the humble. I have discovered the problem and it is me. "I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips".

I have a few suggestions:

Defining the Problem
1. Start with facts. I say here "start" with facts. Most of the comments of criticism that is made regarding the state of the church is of the "if we all got together and did this or that the church would meet its mission or be the church according to God's plan". Such statements are solutions. Solutions are not anywhere so simpler. If we are to have a discussion that could generate change, the discussion cannot start with solutions. Instead it is vital just to gather the facts and make clear simple statements that define the problem. At this initial stage, simply looking at the facts as they actually are is very helpful.

2. Be very precise about the real problem. Throughout church history men have attempted to define "what are the distinguishing marks of true religion". Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is the quintessential example of being precise about the real problem. Take Matt. chapter 7 as an example. Is a lack of evangelism the problem? Should we go "door to door" like the Jehovah's Witnesses? Well , Jesus says no. In fact, many will call Jesus 'Lord' and do great ministries and yet not know God at all and are actually "doers of iniquity". Jesus says instead "the wise man is the one who obeys these commandments (the things of the Sermon on the Mount) and teaches others to do them". Jesus is saying true righteousness is not always what we expect. Beware of religious forms and miss the true areas that need salvation. What areas of change are really needed? How can we be prophetic to really take the vital signs of the church and not just be spewing forth opinions and brokenness?

So let’s be slow and objective!!

Next post. I will o a little round up of other bloggers who are blogging on the "New 95 Theses Project"
God Bless,

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