A Ministry Flop

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. —Luke 5:37

Normally, when someone says their efforts were a flop, it isn’t a good thing. (We all know what that's like.)

But, evidently, all flops are not created equal.

In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, 21-year old Oregonian, Dick Fosbury, won the gold medal in the high jump, as one journalist put it, “looking like a guy falling off the back of a truck.” The Americans hadn’t been victorious in that event since 1956 and may not be still if it weren’t for that now famous Fosbury Flop.

Rather than employing the traditional approach to the high jump, with its straddle style forward kick over the bar, the Flop features a midair rotation of the entire body and places the jumper on the back of his head as he hits the mat. Or, as the man himself described it, "I take off on my right, or outside, foot rather than my left foot. Then I turn my back to the bar, arch my back over the bar and then kick my legs out to clear the bar." It looked odd, but it worked better than any other technique.”

At the time, the Flop seemed to be an aberration—a one-hit wonder, so to speak. Coaches and parents alike warned against others trying it, fearing neurological injury. The funny thing is, over the last 45 years later, no one using any other technique has ever held the world record, which is now over 8 feet. (For the sake of perspective, that’s like jumping over the top of a stop sign—and clearing it by a foot.)

In 1968, the Fosbury Flop was what business analysts typically call a disruptive strategy, a strategy that “significantly changes the dynamics of a commonly accepted market paradigm.” Mark Harrison, Managing Director of the Business Insight Team, takes it a step further: “A disruptive strategy ignores the requests for the improvements your existing customers are demanding, but concentrates on something 'less good' in terms of incremental improvements, but much much better in a different dimension.”

More and more of us are seeing the oikos principle as a disruptive ministry strategy for this generation. It does seem strange that, more than 2,000 years after Jesus revealed His original Kingdom-building strategy, it could be characterized as "disruptive." But that's what happens when a simple idea is displaced over time by a complex system, in this case, one filled with religious hierarchies, denominational contention and program-based ministry. Because our existing customers seem quite comfortable with the status quo, we now find ourselves competing for the participation of existing believers, rather than seeing more people come to Christ.

Is an idea as simple as handing the mission of the church to the church somehow a threat? And to what? Or to whom?

One thing is consistently true about fear—it always lowers the bar.

After considering the implications of the oikos principle, a senior leader of one of the largest Evangelical denominations in the world recently responded in an all-too familiar way. He didn’t say, “The principle isn’t consistent with Scripture.” Neither did he suggest that our research was incorrect (identifying an oikos relationship as the centerpiece of over 95% of Christian conversions). This was his response. “It just doesn’t fit into the new denomination-wide evangelism program we just launched.”


I really am sorry that this always seems to sound a bit condescending. But there are reasons why we’re consistently redesigning evangelism programs, and why the average church hasn't won a medal in that event for a long time! Evangelism isn’t a program. It’s a purpose.

Might be time for a flop.

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