In HOPE
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David Timms 

Issue 5.6

Ministry Resource

Have you read George Barna's insightful book "The Power of Team Leadership" (Waterbrook Press, 2001)? While Barna predicts that "most Protestant churches will not incorporate team leadership into their ministry practices in the forseeable future," he gives some practical suggestions to the few who are brave and secure enough to try this powerful model of leadership.

HOPE Happenings

I'm organizing a trip back to the mid-West (April 8-14), flying into St Louis then driving a loop up into Minnesota and back (via Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri), holding meetings to discuss our MA Leadership and Worship programs with anyone interested. If you live in that part of the world and would like to connect, I'd be glad to hear from you. Feel free to drop me an email at djtimms@hiu.edu .

 

Sensational Ministry

I once ate six dozen snicker-doodles (sugar-coated cookies) in two days, with some help from my wife. The first 15 or 20 tasted phenomenal. She's a good cook! But then I went on auto-pilot and morphed into a binging eating-machine. I barely tasted the last ones, though they were every bit as sugary as the first. And I learned something: the senses grow dull when they're overloaded. (Something happens to your waistline, too, but that's another story.)

 

My experience of snicker-doodles, and my observation of some ministries share some common features.

 

In a world that bombards our senses at every turn, sensory overload is not only a possibility but a common reality. And our natural response is to shut down and become oblivious to it all. We no longer hear planes overhead or notice billboards.

 

Indeed, we hear so much, see so much, and experience such sensory stimulation, that we assume the Lord also relies on the sensational experiences to which we are accustomed. But sensation-full ministry must be increasingly "over the top" to reach a generation jaded by the merely spectacular.

 

Is there another way?

 

Perhaps we have grossly underestimated simplicity - both its appeal and its effectiveness. Simplicity will triumph over complexity every time. Of course, simplicity barely suits our highly agitated senses. But is it possible that in the rush to create images and sound bites, noise and fanfare, the spectacular and the stunning, that we have subtly changed (or lost) our message?

 

The preoccupation of our day with rapid images, loud sound, and aggressive music, is creating a generation for whom form has supplanted substance. Fireworks (indoor or outdoor), pounding and pumping sounds, give-away gadgets and other gimmicks have becomes substitutes for what is meaningful.

 

Years ago, a wise pastor told me that "what you win people with is what you win people to."

 

I'm not against live animals walking the church isle on Palm Sunday or angels trapezing into an auditorium on slender wires for Christmas. I don't want to throw cold water on clever object lessons or criticize creative video cuts. After all, I've received my share of gifts and gimmicks. (Yes, I paid $25 the other day for TWO food choppers, a carving knife, a slicer that does impressive things to a potato, and more.) But is this cultural phenomenon shaping not just how we package the gospel, but the very gospel itself?

 

Jesus' call to thoughtful simplicity and steady obedience hardly resonates with our pursuit of sensational ministry. Eugene Peterson once called the Christian life "a long obedience in the same direction."

 

Recently, I noted the irony in a Christian song broadcast on the radio. "In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness you are there ..." This particular arrangement raced along with urgency and boomed out volume that made the words difficult to decipher. My senses were bombarded and the message itself was ... contradicted.

 

What am I driving at? Simply the caution that the medium can become the message. May the power of the gospel never be undercut by the "sensational ministry" of our day. Three snicker-doodles produces deeper appreciation than three dozen, and pounding the senses does not guarantee opening the doors of the heart.

 

In HOPE -

Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831

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David Timms Chairs the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the administrators or Board of the institution.

For back issues of In HOPE, see http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/