Friday, September 28, 2012

Missed Opportunities

The Challenger Disaster 

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in January 1986. Subsequent investigation determined that the cause was failure of the O-ring seals used to isolate the fuel supply from burning gases. 
NASA staff had analysed the data on the relation between ambient temperature and number of O-ring failures (out of 6), but they had excluded observations where no O-rings failed, believing that they were uninformative. Unfortunately, those observations had occurred when the launch temperature was relatively warm (65-80 degF). They didn't test when it was cold. They missed opportunities for further testing.
Our own Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire said, "It's our responsibility to pass on what we inherited, not to squander it, but to build on it." She certainly was't referring to the Church or to Christianity, but, we do have a responsibility to pass on what we have inherited from Christ, not squander it, but to build on it.
Jesus, the Christ, said, "...teaching them to observe all that I,have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:20a, ESV)
I think there is nothing that grieves me more than to witness the proliferation of squandered opportunities in the church at large today. We think we are doing well because we "teach the bible three to four times a week" at our churches. I have seen many churches think they are doing well by teaching a book of the bible during the Adult Bible Class, another book during the Sunday Morning service, and yes another book of the bible on Sunday evening, and yes, another book of the bible on Wednesday evening. After all we are "Bible Churches" are we not? MacArthur says that all preaching should be verse by verse expository messages doesn't he?
Are we really doing well? Or, are we simply squandering opportunities? As I see it, depending on two to four weekly services dedicated to expositorily teaching a book of the bible is fraught with danger. I think the dangers are as follows: (This list is not exclusive nor is it in any order of importance)
  • Informational presentation of material is not always effective
  • These services tend to be, particularly Sunday morning and evening monologues rather than dialogues
  • Believers are at varying degrees of maturity
  • Believers learn and absorb biblical principles at different rates
  • Large gatherings of individuals with different levels of learning and skills "whither" by a shortage of "food and water" rather than flourish with hands on, sleeves rolled up, nitty-gritty training
I believe, and it breaks my  heart that we are missing at best or squandering at worst opportunities that God has given to us. I am so moved by the reminder that, " whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48b-e, ESV) I believe that we have wasted God given opportunities to disciple various believers by thinking we are doing them a great service by forcing them into an arena of a methodology of presenting information from expositional teachings rather than by discipleship strategies.

I think we do need a good strong Sunday morning corporate worship and preaching service. During this time all believes from all ages, levels, and degrees of knowledge and spirituality come together to worship together. Rather than take this time to do a bible study, why not take the truths of Scripture in relationship to the church and teach the gathered church all that the church needs to know and do to be all that Jesus wants the church to be? 

Then, on Sunday evenings we can have a bible study. Here we can operate age-based Sunday school classes for children and youth, while the adults are taught expositionally through a bible study.

You say what about the mid-week bible study and prayer meeting? Ninety five percent of the ones I have seen over the last five years can be disbanded to no ones hurt.  This is just a suggestion but it does prevent squandering opportunities to disciple and pray rather than squandering those opportunities.

  • Monday evening - all church, corporate prayer (no study, just prayer)
  • Tuesday evening - Beginners discipleship for new or immature believers
  • Wednesday evening - Advanced discipleship for the maturing in Christ
  • Thursday evening - Intermediate discipleship for those in between
The Elders (leadership team) are responsible for training, developing, and shepherding. This way they all can be involved in the real development of believers rather than simply dispensing information. Also, most buildings are used relatively little during the week. This should shame us. All that investment sitting dark and empty accept for once or twice a week.

Naturally a program like this takes coordination, commitment, and courage. We preachers who love to pontificate may need to give up our two to three times a week exposition in favor of tailoring specific teaching to specific individual needs.

We need to teach our people how to pray, how to study their bible, how to share their faith, how to trust God, how to respond to trials, a biblical world-view, how to resist temptation, and more. In other words, we need to be about, "...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:20a, ESV)

Today's post is based on a conversation with two dear friends, one in Tacoma, WA and one in Chicago, IL. We lamented the lack of discipleship that takes place today. I was asked my opinion and thoughts and after the past five years of observation, reading, and discussion these are my thoughts.

1 comment:


I think we are all guilty of missing things in life, albiet by neglecting a God given talent or just plain lazy to make the most of each day,

Great post Gregg.