In Robert Lacy’s biography, Ford: The Man and the Machine, a story is told of how Henry Ford was so enamored with his Model T that he refused to change it. At the height of its popularity, Ford’s production genius, William Knudsen, believed the Model T would soon loose its mass appeal. While Ford was on a trip to Europe, Knudsen created a new, low-slung version of the Model T, complete with four doors and red lacquer.
Ford returned from Europe and visited the garage where the model was being displayed. On-duty mechanics recorded how he went berserk when he first saw the new creation. Considering it a perversion of the original design, he promptly ripped off the doors, kicked out the windows, and put his foot through the fabric roof.
Ford was convinced that nothing needed to be changed, even though competitor’s vehicles made it appear old-fashioned. He clung to the notion that his beloved car would never go out of style. He was dead wrong! His resistance to change almost eliminated his position in the marketplace.
The message vs. the method
Admittedly, in ministry there are some non-negotiable issues. The message of the good news of Jesus can never be compromised. The “ends” should never justify the “means.” The message contains the promise of changed lives here and for eternity, and it’s too important to be “watered down.”
The methods of reaching people however can change, and must if we are fulfilling the gospel commission. Methods must be as varied as the people we are trying to reach.
“…I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22 (KJV)
Modern day example
I pastor a church where members are discussing the possibility of initiating Sunday study services in nearby towns. The services would minister to people seeking an alternative worship experience. This study would certainly not replace our Sabbath services, but would be in addition to them.
Our hope is that we’ll have opportunities to build relationships, open dialogue, and establish the trust necessary to bring them the Three Angels message, while meeting them on the “common ground” of the day they normally worship. Same message, different method!
Ministry’s face is changing, and there are many different methods being used by leaders all over the globe. Some “push the envelope” on accepted practices, but we must judge these methods on their merits, not on our personal and corporate “comfort zones.”
The challenge of change
Resistance to change in the methods that are implemented is only natural, but let’s remember, Jesus was considered “radical” during His time on earth. Speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well was considered “social taboo”, but He crossed the accepted “barriers” and used this method to reach the heart of a sincere seeker.
We must follow in Christ’s footsteps; not for the sake of change, but for the sake of His kingdom.
Michael Temple serves as a pastor in North Dakota.