I’ve been pastoring long enough to have remembered many of the fads that hit the church. I have the evidence: I have books that belong to the time that certain fads were hot. Some of them are good, but it’s easy to get cynical when you see fads come and go with such regularity.
David Hansen talks about looking through his predecessor’s library and noticing some of the movements that the former pastor had followed: “The movements he followed actually had little if any effect on his ministry, except in a fatal way: ultimately perhaps he confused following Christian movements with following Christ.“
Most of us feel compelled to “jump on the bandwagon” without asking where the bandwagon is going. Western society has made so many sharp turns in the past four hundred years that we have been conditioned to accept change as soon as it seems to be the potential “wave of the future.” Some of us go even further and try to predict the next wave before it takes hold of the world, thus putting us (to use a cliché) “on the cutting edge.”
…And why is such faddism a hindrance to spiritual growth? Because spiritual growth is primarily internal, whereas most fads are external; because spiritual growth is hard work, whereas most fads require little or no effort on our part; because spiritual growth is a long process that requires our daily attention, whereas most fads distract us with their promise of instant gratification.
Back to David Hansen. Reflecting on all the fads his predecessor followed, Hansen says:
He and I were cut from the same piece of cloth…I was suckled on trend-driven Christianity. I’d grown up in the thick of consumer religion. It was all I knew. I knew every movement represented in his library. I’d tried them all myself. I didn’t know if I could do pastoral ministry without them. But every time I looked up at his library, I knew that I had to try.
There is no secret formula or program. There is only the Gospel, the Spirit, and “working the angles” as Peterson puts it. Believing this may change our lives; if nothing else it sure will help with our conference budgets!