Maybe you’ve seen a comedy sketch from some years ago where a group of old men are sitting around reminiscing; talking about how difficult life was in their youth. Their statements become more and more preposterous as each takes a turn outdoing the previous speaker. As each one finishes, the next begins with the words, “You were lucky! When I was a lad…” Apart from the chuckle I still get, that sketch also has a cautionary effect when I’m sometimes tempted to make comparisons between my generation and later ones. It seems that the older I get, the more ‘selective’ my memories are; I’m more likely to remember myself and my age mates as diligent and disciplined in contrast with the youth of today…
That being said, it is self-evident that our society today does give less value to a disciplined and self-controlled life style. The so-called ‘modern’ era inherited many of its ideals from the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment period, which placed great importance on a rigorous pursuit of learning and human endeavour. Sadly, this coincided with a move away from a God-centered worldview, as man progressively believed that his own ability to know and to do could solve all of his problems.
In more recent times, this confidence in human learning and endeavor has been exposed as a myth, with the realisation that things are essentially getting worse, not better. Rather than turning to the One who is the solution, people are looking for answers in diverse and disconnected places or, increasingly, living with the conviction that there never were and never can be any real answers. Sociologists define the resulting chaos that now typifies our society as ‘postmodernism’, although most of them would not describe it as chaos but perhaps a ‘breaking of shackles’, which had restricted human expression and development. As those who bear the responsibility for the Great Commission in this time, we must do what believers have always had to do:
• We must recognize all the forces – including the current cultural environment -that have the potential to shape our thinking, determine our values and decide our actions
• We must look to God’s Word as the basis for correctly adjusting our attitudes and values
• We must rely on his Spirit who enables us to act accordingly so we can move ahead
My wife and I are often in contact with individuals and teams around the world who are working in a wide range of situations as they plant churches in what some would call ‘remote’ and ‘closed’ areas. One of the major things we have in mind is to help them to re-define overall goals for their work, so they can evaluate how far they have come, and then decide what to focus on next. In the complexity of the situations they find themselves in, it can be easy to set short-term goals based on their own particular role in the work, or on individual gifts and abilities. It’s helpful for people in that situation to take another look at their context from further back – to view the big picture and the long-term goals – and see it from the perspective of the local church (even if it is yet to be born).
We use an outline of questions we call ‘W.I.L.D.’ (Word. Identity. Life. Discipleship.) to help church planters and church leaders view a church or group of believers in a more comprehensive and focused way.