Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Church Methods Don’t Matter—Until We Do Them Wrong

Church Methods Don’t Matter—Until We Do Them Wrong

If you’re still using double-spacing between sentences, here’s a very blunt message from the technology columnist for the NY Times. “Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.” (Emphasis his).

It doesn’t matter that it used to work, or that it used to be right. Today’s reality is that it doesn’t work any more, so it’s not right any more.

Thus endeth the typesetting history lesson.

Now, back to today’s church methods.

Don’t Let the Method Hurt the Message

If I wrote my blog posts using two spaces between sentences, it wouldn’t change my content one bit. And the content is all that matters. But it would change something very important—how people read my content.

Double-spacing would draw attention to itself and away from the content, putting an unnecessary gap (literally) between my content and people’s ability to read it. Why would I use a method that does that? Why would anyone?

But we do that in church all the time. We insist on using methods that have long outlived their usefulness, often while loudly insisting that methods don’t matter.

But if methods don’t matter, clinging to old methods is just as problematic as insisting that new ones will lead us to revival and renewal. (And vice versa.)

We agree that the content is all that matters. After all, no one has ever read a book and exclaimed “That story moved me so deeply! The way the author single-spaced between sentences was profoundly touching!”

But, if the author used double-spacing, someone might say “I didn’t like the book. I don’t know why, but it just seemed hard to read.” I know that’s true because I’ve heard people say that after reading blog posts and emails with double-spacing. They may not even know what’s wrong, but something feels off.

The methods we use in the church need to adapt. Not to compromise our message – never to to do that! But so that the unchanging, uncompromised message won’t be hamstrung by outmoded, hard-to-comprehend methods.

Why I Change My Methods

I regularly change the methods I use to communicate the gospel. Not because those methods will save anyone. Only the good news of Jesus will do that. We need to change our methods for the same reason I wrote this post using single-spacing – because bad methods get in the way of the message.

So no, methods don’t matter. Until they stop working. Or when the new methods become more important than the gospel. When that happens, the methods really do matter—for all the wrong reasons.

Any method that hinders people’s ability to receive the truth of the gospel needs to be changed or abandoned. No matter how well it worked in the past, how new and cool we think it is, or how much it means to us.

The Best Method Gets Out Of The Way

If my content has errors, those errors don’t get fixed by promoting it with new methods or going back to old ones. The content needs to be fixed first. Until then, the methods don’t matter. But if the content is good, yet the methods get in the way—then the methods matter.

That’s why any method that adds anything to people’s ability to hear and accept the simple message of the gospel needs to be learned and used as quickly as we can implement it.

I don’t want people “oohing” and “aahing” over new church methods. And I will not fight to keep the old methods. I want to use the best method available for any given situation.

A good method shouldn’t stand out. It should disappear like the single spaces between my sentences, so the message can come through more clearly than ever.

This article originally appeared here.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.