The Biggest Oversight in Ministry

Paul Hiebert's diagram of the layers of worldview
Paul Hiebert's diagram of the layers of worldview

For my first article here on hubpages, I wanted to write an article that will no doubt be woven into many of my articles as we go.  I am somewhat of a theologian, but I am also an anthropologist.  I find this combination very exciting since ministry usually involves people.  In fact, if you're involved in a ministry that doesn't involve people I suggest you get out.  Many of us involved in ministry are concerned primarily with one thing:  "Am I effective?"

Effectivity is hard to measure.  How do I know that whatever ministry I spent my time and efforts maintaining produced anything in the way of fruit?  Is it just a matter of optimism?  I mean, surely we can find something to be optimistic about in evaluating our ministry efforts.  But conversely we can always find something to be pessimistic about also.  So what is the ruler to measure whether or not what we did worked?  Typically we as ministers are looking for changed lives as a result of our efforts.

When people want to know whether someone has changed, they look at their lifestyle.  After all, out of the mouth the heart speaks right?  So logically to know what's on the inside we simply look at the outside.  It is believed so much that I strain to think of a Sunday where the preacher did not say something to the extent "if you look like the Devil on the outside, then you don't have Jesus on the inside".  The problem that comes from this mentality is the greatest oversight in ministry.  In an effort to change the heart, people are encouraged to change their lifestyle.

The diagram to the right illustrates a model for worldviews as described by Paul Hiebert.  It's a simple diagram showing layers with observable behavior on the outside moving into socio-cultural institutions, values, and then at the center of the circles worldview.  What is helpful with this diagram is it helps direct goals in ministry.  Think of the diagram as a target.  Most ministers aim for that outside ring of observable behavior.  Often the preacher succeeds at changing a persons behavior, but later becomes frustrated at their seeming lack of interest in spiritual things.  Why?  I believe it is because the worldview is not being targeted and therefore what a person believes on the inside hasn't changed.  The only thing that has changed is the outside.

As ministers of the Gospel of Christ we must do better than simply making people behave.  If dead people are going to come into a vibrant living relationship with Christ we must hit a bullseye right at their worldviews.  We'll have more post on this as we go, but I leave you with this: what do the people you minister to believe to be true?


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