Friday, August 02, 2013

Keep the clubs in the bag

At a meeting of church leaders I attended a while back one of the speakers challenged us about getting balance in ministry. Now keeping things in proportion, not neglecting important truths and avoiding unhealthily pre-occupations with single issues in ministry is important - the other way the cults lie!

However, in this instance the dichotomy being presented to us was misleading. The danger we were told was too much emphasis on doctrine and theology. This was the scourge of evangelical churches - and here comes the analogy - our churches historically have been too taken up with just one 'club' (i.e. doctrine) and thus neglected the other 'ministry clubs' such as evangelism, mercy ministry, community building pastoral care etc.

To be honest I can't remember exactly how it was put - but 'clubs' was the analogy and this blog is about the bigger presentation of these issues rather than a one-off comment - so apologies if I've over-stated that particular incident. However, the general point being made is a common one. Indeed the accusation that evangelicals are obsessed with doctrine is pretty old news - are there any sensible thinking evangelicals who aren't aware of the dangers of 'just having head knowledge' or who think evangelism, mercy ministries and pastoral care aren't really important. As a challenge to evangelicals it is somewhat hackneyed.

What got me intervening in the debate though was not the un-originality of the comments but the false premise of setting doctrine against those other things as if they are separate components of ministry. Doctrine/theology is not a separate club - but 'the bag' in which all the other clubs are kept. Get rid of 'the bag' or forget to take it with you, and all the other 'clubs' will soon be all over the place.

So when someone says (and they will sooner or later), 'Let's stop fussing about doctrine and just get out there and share Jesus'. The question is, 'What are you going to share - what will you say to people?' Because as soon as you make as statement, claim or pronouncement about Jesus - we're talking doctrine.

The 'clubs' of evangelism, mercy ministry, pastoral care, fellowship, praise (you name them) are all drawn out of the bag of doctrine and theology. So make sure the bag is in good order and make sure your clubs are kept inside it.