There is a tension between methods, content, and needs. With tensions we often pit one against each other, or take the “both/and” approach. This pours into another tendency; using nebulous terms such as balance, equilibrium or compromise. Everyone defines balance differently. We love to prioritize, especially if we’re analytical types, or just make bigger messes, if we’re mystical ministry as art types. How do we navigate these big three things?
The big three defined
What do I mean by methods and content and needs? Here are some definitions with examples of how they look when taken to an extreme:
Methods: What we do.
On steroids? Over emphasis on the non-biblical.. aka maximizing leadership, synergistic program developments, the latest greatest book based on statistical analysis.
Content: Who we are, theology.
On steroids? Over emphasis on the biblical… aka comatose preachy preaching, Word studies from languages we don’t speak, dead orthodoxy.
Needs: Where people around us are at.
On Steroids? Over emphasis on doing… aka the social Gospel, building self-help groupies, incredible families enterprises, political action.
What we need is balance right? In a word, no. Equilibrium? Not so much. Both/and? Sigh. These concepts often get people thinking in terms of 50/50 or compromise. I believe God cares about all three.
The body is an incredible organic analogy. No one thinks to prioritize the heart, lungs or brain. Without each of these things you’re quite dead, and perhaps this is why many ministries are dying. We think in terms of health. We seek to sharpen our minds, and build a strong cardiovascular system. These are both keys to a long healthy life.
How the disciples succeeded
In Acts 6 the church was not healthy in an area. Hellenistic widows were being overlooked (need). The old program was not working and a new one was needed (methods). The Apostles recognized that focusing their energy on that problem would take away from what was essential, God’s Word and prayer (content). These things could have been in tension, but they weren’t. Rather the situation called for radical change, an opportunity to live out the Gospel and repentance, and a chance to reaffirm who we are. The church moved forward and God’s power was unleashed.
Where the disciples learned success
WWJD? Luke tells another story. 5,000 men were hungry and in need of food (need). The disciples thought the best idea was to send them away: there wasn’t enough food or enough money to feed everyone (program). Jesus was not about to stop what was essential, His teaching (content). Did the disciples pass this test? No. But, they learned and God’s power was evident. (When we lack in an area, God will provide.)
The disciples learned from failure that ministry is about health. Methods, content, and needs must have an intentional active focus. They did not sacrifice one area to bolster another. They brought up the weaker area through the power of God, while continuing the other essential areas. They changed when needed, tackled opportunities when they arrived, and kept their message front and center.
The bottom line
Think organically. The overall health of your ministry is related to the health of the three areas discussed. Ask: How is your health?
Are in you a rut or open to radical change?
How well are you leading?
What steps of change or improvement have you taken lately?
How well do you know and understand God?
Are you still a student to the Bible & Theology?
What was the last theological topic you’ve studied lately?
Do you know where your people are at?
When was the last time you studied your community to see how you can best serve?
How has your ministry demonstrated compassion?