Sunday, May 22, 2011

Message vs. Method - Discipleship 139

This is a classic question in the discipleship conversation: How do we remain commitment to the message while using relevant methods to communicate the message?

In my younger days, I loved being a patron of The Cheesecake Cafe. This particular restaurant was known for its' desserts...and I'll admit it, I have a soft spot for cheesecake and other rich desserts!! If you wanted to experience cheesecake, this was the place to go. But then something happened. The quality of food remained the same, but it was almost as if the restaurant was clinging too much on reputation alone to communicate its' message (we make the best cheesecake) to people. Sadly, the Cheesecake cafe that has been in the area of Calgary in which I live recently closed its' doors because it wasn't making a profit. This restaurant had lost sight of its' originally defined goal of success.

In discipleship, the definition of success is obedience to God. The fruit (or result) of this success is a disciple; meaning that replication is the goal. When we are engaged in the discipleship of others, the goal is to see this other person become a disciple of Jesus and to then inspire others to do the same.

I wonder sometimes if we lean too heavily on our reputation as Christians that we resist things like creativity, originality and change in our pursuit of making disciples of others. We may hear a phrase like "we have a new way of doing things" and immediately shudder or cringe because the words 'new' and 'way' lead us to assume the message must suffer for the sake of this new method. I personally disagree. I think the message of Jesus is time-tested. The message, and therefore definition of success for discipleship, can not change. If they do, then we risk becoming heretical and living examples of defamation.

What can change, however, is the way we communicate this message. Our methods do not stand the test of time. We are constantly learning how to do things more effectively or differently in order to keep them fresh and unique. Why not employ this same strategy in our quest for discipleship? Does it really hinder the growth and development of others when we are looking at different ways to reach more people with the gospel message of Jesus?

The bottom line is that we sometimes enjoy celebrating the method rather than celebrating the message. We love to point to our strategy or our development plan and marvel at how our system has produced our desired result. Instead, should we not become more captivated by the God's message, and His messenger in Jesus, that we learn to embrace the message and discard the method when the method becomes irrelevant and disengaging? Or are we more concerned about the method and believing that it is equal in status with the message itself?

Be creative. Be bold. Hold tightly to the truth of the message of Christ Jesus, and loosely to the methods which you use to communicate it. The last thing we need is to be out-dated, irrelevant and disengaging as God's people.

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A Little Something from Psalm 8

 Had a lot of fun with this one.