Newton’s Third Law of Motion states “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”I know that Newton wasn’t talking about ministry and the way we operate as people, but it’s a great comparison! Human beings are reactionary in nature. It’s a part of our DNA. Part of it is the way God wired us to be. We see the problem that sin brings and the destruction it causes. We see injustices in the world, and we want to change them for the better.
What God has designed for good, we often use in completely unhealthy ways. I belong to the Millennial generation. The Internet to us is what the telephone and pagers were to Gen. X’ers. It has exposed us to a wide variety of sources of information and expanded the way that we see the world. It has allowed us to embrace new technologies and ideas with great ease. We also question the status quo and the way we have always done things. In church life, this looks like questioning the traditions of the established church. I believe it’s one of the reasons that has led to a wave of church planting that has brought a great deal of healthy ministry today.
However, there is a downside to this way of thinking. Our questions may lead us to unhealthy conclusions. Or healthy conclusions with unhealthy ramifications. We may do this by avoiding church planting models or other practices that established churches do. It takes a lot of self awareness and understanding when you’re being reactionary.
Here are several ways to check yourself if you’re being an unhealthy reactionary.
1. Listen to those who have other perspectives.
We can be our own echo chambers. Don’t allow that to happen. Buy someone lunch or coffee who disagrees with you. Ask them to convince you that you are wrong. Don’t do that so you can have a debate with them. Do it so you can truly hear them. Take more time to listen than to speak.
2. Read widely.
It’s easy to just read authors who are already convinced of the same positions as you. Read diverse points of view and allow them to challenge your views. Reading those who already have the same views as you will not help increase the strength of your arguments. Other viewpoints challenge you and make you think through why you are doing things the way you are doing them.
3. Use good hermeneutics when reading the Bible.
Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting the Bible correctly. Many people try to use the Bible to answer questions the Bible never intends to answer. The Bible is very firm about certain things and on other things, it doesn’t have much to say. When the Bible is unclear on an issue, we may be tempted to use the Bible to force the truth of what we are trying to say. I wish I had a nickel for everyone who said, “We want to be the church of Acts.” The culture and the government surrounding the church of Acts looked much different than culture today. How much of Acts is descriptive (meaning that it is just telling the events of a story), and how much is prescriptive (telling us how to do things)? I’ve heard missiologists say things like “This is the Bible’s church planting method.” While the Bible helps lay out aspects of healthy church life, it never lays out a detailed prescriptive church planting strategy! That means we have to use wisdom and discernment, but that also means we have a higher variance among church planting models. That’s not a bad thing.
4. Don’t use definitive statements inappropriately.
Definitive statements help us make our case and points much more boldly and conclusively. Be careful when making those declarations. Even if you don’t mean it, definitive statements come across as the only way or the only correct way of doing things. In some cases, there may be only correct way. Just make sure if you are using definitive statements, you have a clear biblical reason proving your claims.
5. Ask others if you are being reactionary.
If you think you are being reactionary, ask others if you are. And, even if you don’t think you are, ask anyways. Find out from those who will be honest with you who know you. No matter how much self-awareness we have, we all struggle with seeing the faults in ourselves. Good friends who will speak truth to us are hard to find. But when you find them, let them help you.
6. Make sure you are not making opinions on first level issues.
As Christians, there are very important things that we need to hold onto for dear life. These are things such as: the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, the nature of Jesus, grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and many others. Especially for those of us who have strong opinions, we need to make sure we put opinions in their proper place.