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Paradigm Shifts

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Today you hear a lot about the need for change or a “paradigm shift.”  Those who love new things and experimenting love this concept while others are not so sure.  A paradigm is defined as a typical example or pattern of something; a model.  A paradigm “shift” has been defined as a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions and a ​time when the ​usual and ​accepted way of doing or ​thinking about something ​changes ​completely.

Truth never changes but there are times we must evaluate assumptions, perceptions, and the way we are carrying out the Great Commission.  A paradigm shift is needed when the rules of the game change.  This is why Paul was so masterful in how he handled the Greeks, Romans,  Jews, and the Judaizers.  You see, a paradigm defines reality for the situation we are in and we must be aware of our audience and of the culture in which we are ministering.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paradigm shifts can correct past problems but they are not a fix all.  The reality is that new problems will arise.  Great paradigm shifts are occurring in churches, denominations, and in leadership.  These are usually needed because of momentum created by a certain focus that causes the pendulum to swing too far one way or the other.  One paradigm shift that should be applauded by all is in evangelism.  The goal has shifted away from scoring a decision to securing a disciple!

In Revolution in Leadership, Reggie McNeal says, “Paradigms inform both vision and values in people and in organizations.  They drive actions as well as influence attitudes.”  Paradigm shifts help us to refocus and to place the importance back where it needs to be because somewhere along the way we drifted.  This is why Reggie McNeal also says, “God has given each denominational system the freedom to become completely irrelevant or to be a relevant servant of the churches.”  Just remember “perception becomes reality.”

This is why our office has stressed so strongly, “Churches do not exist to serve us but we exist to serve churches and help you carry out the Great Commission.”  The center of the mission of God is the local church (Eph.3:10).  There are a couple of paradigm shifts here that are occurring:

  • From a church has a mission to God’s mission has a church to carry it out!
  • From missions driven by an office or organization to missions driven by a local church!
  • From the mission field being “over there” to we live in a mission field!
  • From we will send our money to accomplish missions to we will also get personally involved!
  • From planting churches to planting churches that plant churches!

Never fear, there is still plenty of work for us to do in coming alongside churches to help them develop their missionaries through assessment, training, and coaching.  Also, we have a network that enables everyone to help financially in getting missionaries and church planters to the field.

Churches are also going through paradigm shifts:

  • From being inwardly focused to becoming outwardly focused!
  • From being performance focused to concentrating on developing disciples!
  • From busyness and frenetic activity to spiritual health and vitality!
  • From one doing everything to the team being trained to do the work of the ministry!
  • From seating capacity to sending capacity!

What paradigm shifts might you or your church need to consider?  How well are people progressing in their spiritual walks?  Are you making disciples who are making disciples?  Is your church behaving like the body of Christ is supposed to behave?  What are the easiest changes you could make to get back on the right path?

The two biggest mistakes many churches make is, first, an unwillingness to evaluate their spiritual health.  The problem is that we know how to count but we do not know how to measure.  The second is this, an unwillingness to take the necessary steps the evaluation uncovers.  Once we discover our errors we must first repent and then begin to take the necessary steps for our behavior to change.

Healthy churches are willing to embrace paradigm shifts that are directed by the Holy Spirit!