And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; and Acts 1:8)
About 20 years ago I was introduced to the concepts taught by futurist Joel Barker. One story he told was about the watch industry and the shift from “mainsprings and gears” to “quartz”.
“In 1968, Switzerland had 65% of the world market share and according to expert estimations, more than 80% of the profits. Yet, just ten years later, their market share had fallen below 10% and in the ensuing three years, they had to release 50,000 of their65,000 watch workers. Today, Japan dominates the world of watch making. In 1968, Japan had virtually no market share. The Swiss watch industry was put back to zero by a paradigm shift. The Quartz Movement watch: Totally electronic. A thousand times more accurate than the mechanical watches it replaced. Battery powered. All new rules.
“The Swiss themselves invented this revolutionary design at their research laboratories in Neu-Chatel. Yet, when their own researchers presented this idea to the Swiss watch manufacturers in 1968, they rejected it. After all, it didn’t have any bearings. It didn’t require a lot of gears. It didn’t even have a mainspring. It had none of the marvelous mechanical complexity the Swiss were so good at. Therefore, it couldn’t possibly be the future of watches.
“So confident were the Swiss manufacturers in that conclusion, that they didn’t even protect the idea. Later that year, the researchers displayed that watch for all to see at the World Watch Congress. Seiko of Japan walked past, took one look, and the rest is history. Pages 13-14, Classic Consolidation 1.4, 8/2/01, Copyright 2001, Joel A. Barker.”
The point he was making is that when there is a paradigm shift “everything goes back to zero”. We are in a huge paradigm shift or as Reggie McNeal so poignantly states, a “hinge of history”. Everything is going back to zero, so maybe we need to go back to where it started and see what “zero” was like in the New Testament. I see at least four characteristics I would like to highlight.
1. Go and Tell versus Come and Hear
The opening text says “As you are going develop followers who will obey”. We have focused on drawing people into our worship experience to hear the pastor. The New Testament paradigm was to go. Jesus modeled this as He went to the Temple (Matthew 21:12), the well at Samaria (John 4:7), and the Gaderene demoniac (Matthew 8:28). I love the passage in Acts 8:1 which tells us that as a result of the death of Stephen the lay people scattered sharing the Gospel while the clergy (Apostles) stayed in Jerusalem. Where is God scattering us?
2. Dependence on the Spirit versus Dependence on apologetics or persuasive arguments
We have developed some great apologetics and tremendous literature which has served us well in the old paradigm, but prayer and dependence on the Spirit’s leadership are going to be paramount in this new paradigm. In Luke 10:1 we see Jesus sending out the 72, telling them to listen to the Spirit and as the Spirit opens the door, share. If the Spirit has not been at work in the home where they go, then they are to go to another home. What doors is the Spirit opening?
3. Starting where they are versus Starting where we would like for them to be
Many times our evangelistic strategy has been to “rescue the sinner”. The “turn or burn” label has too often been true. We presume those with whom we talk have a basic Christian understanding and world view. I think that the growing reality in the Midwest (and probably all over the country) is reflected in the conversation I had with a young woman when I asked her about her faith background. Her response was, “My grandmother was a Catholic”. Peter, in his famous sermon, started by saying, “what you see was predicted long ago” (Acts 2:16). Paul as he witnessed to King Agrippa said, “you are especially knowledgeable about all Jewish customs and issues” (Acts 26:3), Paul as he shared on Mars Hill pointed out the unknown God they worshipped (Acts 17:23) and went from there. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. (Acts 8:35 NASB)”. In this new paradigm we are going to have to determine where the people are and start the “gospel”, the Good News, there in order for them to really hear and understand. What is the “beginning” in the context where you are?
4. Focus on the Group versus Singling out the Individual
In our Western frontier mentality we value the heroic individual, but even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. This new paradigm is highly relational and values the group. We see this mirrored time and again in the New Testament: the jailer and his family (Acts 16:32), Paul went to the Synagogue (Acts 13:14), Lydia and the women by the river (Acts 16:13), etc. Jesus did not invite one of His disciples to be a “Matthew” and open up his home. Matthew as a new believer (and a “man of peace” as reflected in Luke 10:6) invited his friends to a party at his home and asked Jesus to come (Mark 2:15). What home is the Spirit opening, where the person of peace is inviting their friends to come to their home so that we can have the opportunity to share the gospel through them to this new community?
As we evaluate our methods and plans maybe it would be good for us to use metrics like the ones mentioned to help us set the course for what we are doing. Where is the Spirit moving (have we prayed for His direction and discernment)? Are we ready to GO to the GROUP the SPIRIT has prepared, sharing with them FROM THE BEGINNING, so they can understand how to respond to the Spirit’s pull on their heart?
My prayer is, “Help us Lord to listen to your Spirit, go where He tells us, and share with those He has prepared so that Your Word will spread”.