Confessions? Looking for the salacious and the scandalous? Looking for the type of confessions that will ruin a ministry or even a life? Good! You’ve come to the right place! I’m about to drop some confessional knowledge. I admit it. I have some confessions to make. Hopefully, you will learn from my mistakes and not have to endure the pain yourself.
Jump in the DeLorean with me a minute, and let’s turn back the time a few years to when I was a young kid in ministry. Like most young people who the Lord has called into His service, I had a (I thought) unmatched passion for reaching people with the Gospel. I knew that the quickest way to get the same results we had been getting, was to keep doing what we had been doing. I also knew that those who are not in ministry call that something else: stupid. Gasp! Yeah, I typed the word s-t-u-p-i-d. I was so frustrated with what I saw on a consistent basis in the churches I served. I could not take it. It seemed like the common response in the churches I served was to simply do nothing and allow the decline to continue while blaming the decline on all of those outside the church. It was a VERY frustrating time for me. So, I did the only thing I knew to do: I found the largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation and began to examine their methods. I looked at contexts, personalities of their leaders, rates of growth, and any other pertinent information I could find. Then, almost before I knew it, I had done it. I had become a trend follower.
That’s right. I became a ministry trend follower. There are other names for that, but kids may read this, so we will not mention those. I read every book, attended the conferences, and even mimicked preaching and teaching styles in an effort to be more relevant and “cutting edge.” I thought that those whose trends I followed had it all together and that their advice and experience would help me in my context. Then, while on a family vacation, something slapped me. Well, actually, something broke me. It was a mountain. Before you mistakenly think I’m referring to a glorious mountain-top experience, allow me to clarify. It was literally a mountain. Like, for real. See, what had happened was…I went fishing…and fell down the side of a mountain…and broke my leg in two places. That accident, and the subsequent week of staying heavily medicated to ease the pain, caused me to put down the several books I had taken on the trip (or I think it did…I may have read them and don’t remember as a result of the necessary pain meds). Something happened in the next few weeks. That broken leg caused me to slow down and reevaluate some things in my life and ministry. As I recovered from the surgery required to repair my broken leg, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, being a trend follower wasn’t all I had thought it was.
So, with that in mind, here are my salacious and scandalous confessions…Confessions of a former trend follower:
1. It’s exhausting. I would spend so much time trying to keep up with the latest trends that I was essentially a ministry crack addict. I feigned for the newest books from the “hippest” pastors and authors. I would spend hours trying to find their blogs, podcasts, and resources. I was so exhausted trying to follow the trends that I often missed what God was doing in the midst of the ministry for which I was responsible.
2. It’s expensive. Think about it: books, conferences, travel, lodging, and meals. These things not only add up, but they caused me to use resources that could have been allocated to other endeavors within the ministry I served. I know. There is nothing wrong with professional development and attending an occasional conference, but when a ministry is dependent on the trends, the cost is great. And by the cost is great, I am not only referring to the financial cost.
3. It’s futile. Trying to keep up with the trends in ministry is the equivalent of trying to keep up with which athletes have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs or trying to identify which Kardashian is dating or married to who this week. It’s futile. It constantly changes. I learned this: ministry trends and hot topics change more often than I change socks. Check that…ministry trends change more frequently than politicians. Ouch…but it’s true.
4. It’s shallow and produces shallow disciples. Following the various trends I saw in ministry caused me to move on from one idea to another before taking time to invest in the lives of those to whom I was called to serve. Rather than allowing them to mature in their faith, I was too busy trying to identify what to do next. Unfortunately, we wonder why young Christians get disgruntled with the faith, but I wonder if it’s because guys like me were encouraging them to “dig deep” while only offering a kiddie pool…Hit you head enough times in shallow water, and you will either get hurt and stop, or worse, you’ll break your neck. I’m still looking for the verse that says, “seek ye first the newest and greatest trends.” I can find the one, however, that says, “see ye first the Kingdom of God.”
5. It’s debilitating. I shudder to think about all the time and resources I spent following and not leading. My leadership was derailed too often because I spent too much time following what others were doing rather than following what Christ was calling me to do and leading others to do the same.
6. It’s idolatrous. I admit it. I confess. Following the latest and greatest trends became my idol. Of course, at the time I did not see it as such. I thought I was staying “in the know.” Truthfully, I was spending WAY more time with trends than I was with Jesus in His Word. Sadly, I could quote David Platt, Mark Drsicoll, John MacArthur, John Piper, Ed Stetzer, and Andy Stanley more than I could quote Paul or Jesus. Tragically, men and their methods became authoritative rather than Scripture.
7. It’s oppressive. Trying to follow all the trends that exist in ministry is terribly oppressive. I’m not talking like a Starbuck’s on every corner oppressive. I’m talking like an over-reaching government oppressive (aww snap…he went there…don’t worry…the NSA already read this). Seriously though, I realized I was ALWAYS behind and could never catch up. I could never set the trend. I was always trying to reach that which I could not obtain. Trying to follow all the trends in ministry left me feeling like I do after listening to a Li’l Wayne song: wondering what in the world that was about and WHY people would get crazy about it. At the end of the day, I felt oppressed and even jealous of the ministries of the others.
Yep, those are my confessions. I am not against research and wisdom at all. I have learned, however, that being a trend follower costs too much and hurts too much. Maybe sharing my pain and mistakes can prevent others from making the same mistakes.
Maybe you have similar experiences to mine about such. I’d love to read your confessions as well!