Monday, May 11, 2009


Stephen Ambrose, noted author of Band of Brothers, Undaunted Courage and D-Day, was a historian with a Ph.D. Prior to his death from lung cancer in 2002, he served as a professor of history at several universities. But he was soundly panned by colleagues for his "pop" (short for popular or populist) approach to dispensing history. His books put history into the hands of the common people. Many history professors didn't like that.

It is often true for various disciplines (science, psychology, etc.) that the "experts" come up with their own language and protocol to insulate their high level information from the outsiders. They view their industry, and the attendant knowledge reservoir, as proprietary. They don't like it when someone comes along and puts the cookies on the lowest shelf. They don't want to make it easy on the followers, but hard. Shoot, they paid a price for this information! Everyone should have to pay the price (right?).

Religion is not only not immune from this urge toward exclusivity, but perhaps the most susceptible to it. Jesus fought the proprietary nature of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. He ended up being crucified, and his loudest detractors were not secularists, but religious-types, who saw him as an affront to their industry. I would suggest that the Great Reformation was Martin Luther (and others) putting the scripture into the hands of the common people. I would suggest that the current Reformation is putting the ministry into the hands of the common people, and you can expect that the "religious elites" are not going to like the populist approach of groups like CTK and others.

Populism is the stuff of movements, like the Quickbooks craze. Here's what Clayton Christensen said about Quicken: "Quicken dominates its market because it is easy and convenient. Its makers pride themselves on the fact that the vast majority of Quicken customers simply buy the program, boot it up on their computers, and begin using it without having to read the instruction manual. Its developers made it so convenient to use, and continue to make it simpler and more convenient, by watching how customers use the product, not by listening to what they or the “experts” say they need. By watching for small hints of where the product might be difficult or confusing to use, the developers direct their energies toward a progressively simpler, more convenient product that provided adequate, rather than superior, functionality….Intuitʼs disruptive Quickbooks changed the basis of product competition from functionality to convenience and captured 70 percent of its market within two years of its introduction."

If you make your sermons understandable, you make it easy for someone to start their own ministry, and you make it simple to get into a small group, you are going to have a popular ministry. Many churches just flat out make it too hard. But I'm not suggesting you take a populist approach because it works. I'm suggesting you take a populist approach because Jesus did. Jesus did not call us servants, but friends. He said, "Everything the Father has revealed to me, I've revealed to you." He didn't play peek-a-boo with his vast insights. He didn't even make people enroll. He just gave Himself away. Like our leader, our goal is not to make it difficult for people to get into the kingdom of God. We must be people of the easy yoke, the light burden. Our goal is to put the cookies on the lowest shelf where everyone can get at them.

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