Years ago I had an old London taxi that I used as my car. It was great fun. But it had different keys for the boot and the doors. I got fed up with that so decided to sort it. I took apart the locks and rearranged the tumblers, filing some of them down a bit. The result was that one key opened all the locks.
I was remembering this recently as I was thinking about some of things I see on the Christian landscape these days. You see, forcing a lock to fit a key is not ideal. It is not guaranteed to work well.
I meet with Christians and other church leaders and hear about the various quick-fix ideas that go round from time to time. So many of them are hailed as the greatest solution to the quest for church growth since Jesus walked on water. They are peddled as the open-all key we have been looking for.
They are fads, and I have fad fatigue!
I don’t mean I have tried many, for I haven’t. Most of those I have tried were when I was a younger minister. However, the few I have tried and the many others that have been tried by people I know have left me with an overflow of examples to learn from. They rarely work out of their first context.
Often the fad (or formula for success) is based upon something that has worked because someone somewhere has been seeking God and has discovered the “key” for their situation. This discovery is the God-given strategy for them and their location. With the Spirit’s anointing and direction they have stepped forward and seen great things happen. Because the key was of God and it was He who breathed life into the strategy, it is He who rightly gets the credit.
The problem is when someone sees the results, takes the strategy and tries to import it into their situation. It is like taking a key and forcing the lock to fit it. Quite soon others have adopted the same strategy and before we know it it has become a fad seized on by desperate hearts.
I think the lure of fadism is the result of a loss of confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Rom 1:16,17). I am convinced that many churches would be renewed if they could believe again in the life-transforming gospel.
I say it is the result of a loss of confidence in the gospel, but it can be the cause too. Which is it? Or is it both? It is certainly corrosive! The more fads are pursued and given our trust, the more, when they fail and disappoint, we lose confidence in the gospel. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
For too often the fad is even believed to be part of the ancient gospel itself.
I think fads should be avoided because of the disappointment they will bring and the toxic affect they have on faith and true discipleship.
I believe the ancient gospel works.