Equipping Your Reimagine Journey
The #ReimagineFORUM Coaching Session with Dr. Dan R. Crawford
> Senior Professor of Evangelism & Missions, Chair of Prayer & Discipleship Emeritus, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX
> Spiritual Life and Leadership Mentor, West Coast Baptist Association, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
> President, Disciple All Nations, Inc., Fort Worth, TX
Society is constantly changing. If we do not rethink our strategies, plans, programs, etc. we will find ourselves out of touch with the very people we have been called to serve. However, we must be careful that we only rethink our ministry and not the principles that support it. I used to quote a poem in my Seminary classes:
"Methods are many; principles few.
Methods often change; principles never do."
I would then reinforce it with an illustration that can only be understood if one knows the background. My classes would often meet in Fleming Hall, which was a re-modeled building that originally was built to be Fleming Library. In every hallway, there would be round posts bulging out of the walls into the walkway, and in almost every classroom there would be one or two posts in the middle of the room, obstructing the view of anyone seated behind it. After explaining what these posts were - originally designed to support the building - I would identify them as being like "principles" and the newly re-designed building as a "method" designed for classroom teaching. If one decided to destroy the posts/principles, the building/methods would crumble, and thus be useless. The truth is the building - Fleming Library - was no longer useful as a library, and a new library was built. Having been remodeled, Fleming Hall was now useful as a classroom building. As to our ministry, we must continually rethink the methods, and always be prepared to remodel/rethink.
A reimagine-journey will always be difficult and potentially dangerous because to many people "The status quo is the way to go." We are creatures of habit. I even find myself frustrated in worship services where I do not know any of the songs, and if I don't catch myself, I will leave the service upset. However, if I just look around, I will see that everyone my age and younger, is singing the songs and worshipping.
I agree. For many years, I led a small group of Seminary students to a major city in the northwest part of North America as a part of an Urban Evangelism Practicum. This city could be defined by any of the terms just used. It was post-modern, new age, etc. Toward the end of my time on the faculty I took another professor with me to prepare him to take over the practicum at my retirement. While the students were open and willing to listen to the reimagined thinking of the church planters, and ministers, the professor was furious, and often challenged the presenter. It made for an very uneasy class, with a professor in training resisting the new strategies and methods, necessary in communicating the gospel to such a society.
To use another modern term, reimagine means to think outside of the box. I often told my Seminary students, "I'm for any method that works, as long as it is biblically based and theologically sound." In other words, whatever we reimagine, must be driven by biblically sound theology.
Tradition. In a Seminary class on Prayer, I discussed the fact that the Bible instructs us to pray "to" the Father, "to" and "in the name of" the Son, "in, with, and through" the Holy Spirit. Then I discussed the importance of the prepositions, if one wanted to be biblically correct in their prayer life. When I said, "Nowhere in the Bible does anyone pray "to" the Holy Spirit, nor does it teach us to do so." One older student became irate. "My grandmother taught me to pray to the Holy Spirit," he said. When I responded, "I'm not teaching a class on what your grandmother believed. I am teaching a class on what the Bible says," he got up and left the classroom, and proceeded to drop the class. His tradition, would not allow him to even consider rethinking a biblical point.
Begin with the Bible. To begin anywhere else in reimagining, is to run the risk of ending up in a dangerous place.
For those who preach or teach, and who exegete the Scripture and pray in preparation for doing so, I suggest spending at least as much time exegeting your community and praying for them as you do exegeting Scripture and praying for your presentation. Present biblical-based, prayer situated messages/lessons to people you really know and understand.
Lord, help us to be open enough to reimagine, flexible enough to change our methods when needed, but strong enough to stand on unchanging biblical principles. Amen.
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