We have seen this happen day in and day out. A church is set up in the corner and before you can even say “Smith Wigglesworth” it has become the local centre of entertainment and creative arts. Along the way you find we have lost the gospel and no longer even mention the name of Jesus lest we offend some first time visitors. So, methodology (and contemporary methods at that) are they neutral? Here is something you can learn from Arturo Azurdia as we go back to scripture….
As a man devoted to the gospel first and foremost, how am I to respond to the steady barrage of novel methods for ministry being advocated today by various expressions of evangelicalism? Is it ethically responsible to disengage my evaluative faculties in the name of contemporaneity? Is it true that methods for ministry are of no real consequence to God insofar as our motivation is the salvation of human beings—that, in fact, our methods should be altogether determined by the unique mores of each cultural context? Is methodology neutral? Or are we dangerously close to sacrificing Sola Scriptura on the altar of Sola Cultura?
I cannot seem to escape the fact that the Apostle Paul appears far more defined than many in our day regarding ministry methodology. Perhaps our thinking at this point should be critiqued by observing his ministry emphases as embedded within the context of 1 Corinthians 1-2. Consider the salient texts and three unmistakable observations that emerge from them:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect” (1:17)
“For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power” (1:18)
“ . . . we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom” (1:23-24)
“When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:1-2)
“My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power” (2:4-5)
Observation #1:The substance of Paul’s ministry reflects an intentional preoccupation with the message of the cross. Moreover, the content in Paul’s apostolic approach was in no way unique to the Corinthian context. His typical methodology was to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ…
Observation #2:The methodology of Paul’s ministry reflects an intentional correspondence to the message of the cross. It is plain that Paul was surrendered to the lordship of the gospel message. It is also plain that the gospel was so deeply incarnated into his life that not only did it permeate everything he said, its very scent was evident in his manner of communicating it: “not with clever words” (1:17), nor with “brilliance of speech or wisdom” (2:1), “not with persuasive words of wisdom” (2:4)….
Observation #3:The rationale for Paul’s methodology reflects an intentional concern to not invalidate the message of the cross. Paul did not intentionally eschew the methods of communication highly prized in Corinth because he was a traditionalist with a fear for things contemporary. Rather, he was convinced that a lack of obvious correspondence between message and method of communication would inevitably compromise the integrity of the message itself: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect” (1:17)…
We will all readily admit that these three observations may not serve to supply comprehensive answers to the ministry complexities facing well-intentioned pastors, however they do stimulate evaluative questions that can be posed to the methodologies many seem to pander after with little or no discretion: Is the evangelical priority (the gospel) at the heart of this novel approach to ministry? Is this methodology for ministry in keeping with the essence of the gospel itself? Is it a cross-kind of methodology? To what or to whom will the attention of people be drawn? Is it a methodology that requires the power of God for efficacy, or does it produce results solely on the basis of human ingenuity and effort?