Friday, October 10, 2014

There's a Cost - Part 1

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of, picture by LaurMG
Torben Rick is a European businessman, executive, and consultant.  On the surface, that description probably wouldn't bring spiritual thoughts to mind. But Mr Rick posted a graphic of four things (since expanded to six items) he described as "the most expensive words in business". As I looked at the list, it struck me how much it applied to our Christianity.

The statements on the list are the kind of thing that could make a friend, businessman, pastor, or coworker respond like our the guy in the picture to the right.  Frustrated, confused, upset. Let's explore.

As I said, the list is business oriented.  It's statements of attitudes that could cost a company if not dealt with.  Think of a church or ministry dealing with the flock and those outside the ministry.  We'll look at three of the items today, the other three next time.  But let's start with the full list:

  1. We have always done it that way.
  2. That's the way we do things around here.
  3. That's not the way we do things around here.
  4. It doesn't matter what we say.  Nothing will change.
  5. Don't boil the ocean.
  6. Don't set the bar too high.
There's a common mindset that goes with all of those and we'll get to that, but let's look at the six items individually first.

1. We have always done it that way.

Picture yourself just having gone to work someplace.  You're told to do something a certain way that doesn't make sense to you.  And, when you ask, the response is "We have always done it that way.". Much of how things are done is what worked for the owner, when he was starting in business. Or a ministry head had certain things be successful in growing his first church.

We know Proverbs 1:8 tells us "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:".  But that's not saying we need to be stuck with old methods that may no longer work. Or, maybe worse, it does work but has limits to how well.  And everyone has become attached to it because it was the first thing that worked, even if only partially.  And, worst of all, even if "what we've always done" works well, that kind of thinking leaves no room for the movement of the Holy Spirit to do something new.

2.  That's the way we do things around here.

This sounds the same as #1, but it's not.  There's no real or imagined historical basis for doing something.  It's more "He did such and such....  And he liked it.".  Think of Proverbs 12:15a, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes:".  Not that what's done is necessarily inherently foolish.  But there's no room to go outside of the comfort zone.  No seeking anything better.  "If it works, don't fix it." is taken to the extreme.  God can't do a new thing because we know one thing will work and we're comfortable with it.  So, we stick with the tried and true, even if it's not appropriate for a given set of circumstances.

Remember when we first learned evangelism?  There were one, maybe two methods we learned. And we'd lead people to Christ -- or at least make a profession.  It became "the way we do things around here".  There was no changing it, because it worked.  And we clung to those methods for a very long time.  There was no mime, no street plays, no variation, little or no change of location. Eventually, those things didn't work so well.  Then we added new methods, went to new places.  But there are businesses and ministries that are so much in a rut that we still wait for something new.

3.  That's not the way we do things around here.

Again, this sounds a lot like the first two.  But, as before, it's not.  Though similar, this one's more insidious.  The first problem sees us with something that has been historically proven,  And there may be emotional attachment to doing things a certain way.  The second situation finds us resting on our laurels.  We found a way that works, no need to explore further.  But #3 sees us actively resisting change.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, we're told "Quench not the Spirit.".  This one is described in 1 Corinthians 2:14, this way: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.".  In ministry or anything spiritual that resistance is really to the moving of the Spirit, even though we may not perceive it that way.

All three of those aren't just limited to unbelievers.  We're looking at traits and attitudes that could just as easily be found in any of us.  And that sounds pretty desperate, as the possibilities go from bad to worse.  But those can be dealt with.  And we'll discuss that on Monday, after we cover the other three items on Mr Rick's list.  In the meantime, something to think about.  Are these attitudes and situations you recognize from work?  From home or ministry?  In yourself?

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