Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Myth of Methodology

I have a gadget on my computer desktop that continually scrolls through my Twitter feed.  For a person who is as easily distracted as I am, that’s probably not a good idea. During one of my more recent ADD moments, I found myself distracted by a link to an article titled something like, “Ten Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic.” I think the number one way was to post articles about increasing your blog traffic. That one worked—it got me to click it.  The second way was to post how-to lists.  Why?  Because we love lists.  We love having a simple list of five or ten things we can check off to somehow make our lives better.

Unfortunately, we have allowed the same mindset to creep into our ideas about accomplishing the Great Commission.  Whether in the areas of church growth, church planting, discipleship or evangelism, we have largely become a people who are looking for a quick and easy list of how to do it.  We are obsessed with methodology.  When God blesses a ministry with fruitfulness, the immediate reaction is to write a book on how it was done. Sure, we get spiritual in our titles—“How God Grew Our Church Plant from 3 to 3000 in 3 Weeks”—but the implication is, read our book to find out how you can make it happen for you too.

The more I read the Bible, the more I realize God doesn’t honor methodology.  In fact, God purposely chooses to accomplish His purposes through different methodologies.  Take Moses for example.  Had Moses lived today, I can imagine publishers lining up at his tent with book proposals. “Four Easy Steps to Stop Your People from Complaining” would be a best seller.  Two sections—first, tell the story of how the people were griping and complaining about water.  Second section—four chapters to tell what he did about it (and of course how we can do the same).  Talk to God. Take the Rod. Find a Rock. Hit It and Get It.  There you have it—a four part methodology.  The book would sell millions of copies to those around the world who are looking for water.  The implication is unmistakable—all you have to do is follow those four steps and you’ll have water too. 

The only problem is, it wasn’t about the methodology. Forty years later, God taught Moses that lesson.  The people were griping about being thirsty, so Moses pulled out the trusty “How-to” book he wrote years before. Let’s see… Talk to God… check. Take the Rod… check. Find a Rock… check.  Hit It (twice for good measure) and Get It… check.  The water came out and the people temporarily quit complaining, so the methodology worked, right?  Wrong.

God doesn’t operate from how-to lists, formulae or methodologies.  He desires that we develop plans and methods, but at the same time, He calls us to trust Him—not our plans.  Horses and chariots, battle plans and training are great.  But as David wrote in Psalm 20:7, “Some take pride in a chariot and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God.”

The temptation is to trust our lists and plans.  We desire for our church to grow or our church plant to flourish, so we seek out the plans and methods of others.  Sometimes the Lord will use those.  Sometimes water will flow for a season.  But when we trust in our plans and our methods (or those of others) we fail to do what we are above all else called to do.  We are called to trust God and show His holiness to all people (Numbers 20:12).  We can only do that by trusting Him above all else—including our cherished methodologies and how-to lists.


  • C.J. Adkins says:
    June 1, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Dear Brother Jim,
    Could not agree with you more.
    Outstanding post.

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