Timothy Keller posted a lengthy blog post on why he wrote Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry. He discusses the all-too-common misunderstandings that occur between ministry and doctrine. Here’s an excerpt. You can read the full post here.
One reason I wrote my new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City is that I believe there is a common misunderstanding of the relationship between doctrine and ministry.
Let me illustrate. A puzzling but common sight today is that many churches share the same doctrinal foundations, yet go about ministry in radically different ways. For example, consider two Presbyterian churches that both subscribe wholeheartedly to the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms. The first church uses contemporary music and very little discernible liturgy, employs lay ministers to lead meetings and ministries as well as pastors, and deploys the latest marketing and media strategies. The second church operates in almost the opposite way, using classical music, traditional liturgy, and emphasis on the ordained clergy. They also vigorously criticize the methods of the other church as a betrayal of the Reformed faith, and perhaps even of the gospel itself.
The same doctrinal foundations seem to be producing two completely different sets of ministry expressions. How can that be? And is it even a bad thing? Because the answers are not obvious, we draw two common but wrong inferences.
One mistake is to conclude that the first church is not holding to its doctrinal foundation firmly enough, and therefore it has “gone contemporary.” Traditional churches often say, “While they may subscribe to the Confession with their mouths, they don’t really believe it thoroughly.” The problem is that the foundational doctrinal statements (in this case the Westminster standards) do not speak directly to these matters of method and style. You could argue that the Confession implies this or that style of ministry, but proving the presence of these subtexts and implications is hard. There’s no reason to conclude that the contemporary-styled church must necessarily be untrue to the doctrine to which it subscribes just because of the style of its practices.
Read the full post here, I’m in the middle of reading this having been sent a copy to review, I’ll be posting my review in the next few days.