In order to bridge spiritual and cultural “gaps” in our churches and ministries, Christians need to first bridge the gaps that exist in their thinking—and realign it with God's Word—according to speakers at Texas Baptist Men’s Fall Convention Oct. 23-25 at the Robert E. Dixon Mission Equipping Center in Dallas.
John Snyder, pastor of Christ Church in New Albany, Miss., kicked off the conference by explaining how a “spiritual gap” reveals a deeper issue.
He compared American evangelicals to a group of people sitting in a room, who look at a nearby wall and notice a crack running through. While the initial response is to “spackle and paint” the problem, this will not fix the underlying issue, he said.
“If the crack is caused by a foundational problem, you know the crack will just reappear again and again,” Snyder explained. Similarly, “if we don’t deal primarily with the spiritual gap, then everything we do becomes shallow, and our efforts become ineffective.”
Snyder acknowledged it can be difficult to find the “time and spiritual energy to stop and deal with root issues that lie at the bottom of our spiritual gaps.”
But it’s something the people of God have to do—as Henry Blackaby, Southern Baptist author of the Experiencing God curriculum, put it, “God doesn’t make suggestions.”
Blackaby highlighted the importance of following God’s laws, which serve as the foundation of every Christian’s life and ministry.
“These are not suggestions; they are commands,” he said and pointed to a passage in the first chapter of Joshua, where God tells Moses’ successor to meditate "day and night" on these commands.
"For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Blackaby then asked those at the conference if their lives aligned with this passage.
“How would you describe you life?” he asked. “Do you diligently seek to understand what Christ has commanded, and then diligently seek to practice in your life everything that he has commanded? We call him ‘Lord’ — but often do not do anything that he commands us.”
And that’s where the gaps form, speakers agreed.
To fix these gaps, Snyder said Christians and ministries often respond in one of two ways: “conservatism” or “relativism.”
With conservatism, folks see a moral decline and think the answer is to erect more “rules and standards” — but it’s more than “rules and regulations,” he said. It’s falling in love with the person of God, with his truth and with his way.
On the flip side, there are those who try to “save the world by relating to the world,” what Snyder called “relativism.” Christians think they’re not making an impact on non-Christians in the world because they feel they "can’t relate to them."
“The problem with relativism,” Snyder continued, and likewise, “the question is—when we get everyone to attend our relativistic churches, does God ever attend?
“There is one person you cannot afford to be irrelevant to—it’s God. Everyone else is optional.”
As such, while our ministries may need “radical work,” Snyder said the work doesn’t necessarily call for “extreme changes.”
“The problem with extreme changes is, they’re never extreme enough.” For instance—“if I want to reach 20-year-olds, I could get my ‘skinny suit,’” Snyder said, referring to a current fashion fad of “skinny jeans.”
“I could grow a soul patch. I could change the way I talk. But if I only change the exterior, I haven’t really done what’s necessary to make a lasting change.”
Snyder said Christians need to go deeper to find the root issue, which originates in one’s thinking, “because who you think God to be will determine everything about how you carry out your ministry.”
He said many Christians allow a gap to exist between their concept of who God is and what the Word says about him. And as such, they limit God in their minds.
“Like Job, we all need to be introduced to God in a way that radically alters us,” Snyder said. “Your job is to get to know God. Get to know him better than you know anybody else.”
The good news is there doesn’t have to be a gap, he added, though there often is “a normal gap” in one’s life as God leads them and teaches them by the Spirit.
“Sadly, because we’re not perfect, there is a gap between what he’s teaching us and where we’re at.”
Snyder then described a “methodical lifelong task” of going back to Scripture one attribute at a time, “searching through the Bible, getting those truths out and dusting them off… and then finding a way to apply them to my life, my home, ministry and service.”