‘Either-Or’ and the False Dilemma

I know I’ve railed about this before, and if you’re tired of it and wish to pass on this post, please forgive me and feel free to move on.

John Alan Turner, at his Faith 2.0 blog posts Ministry vs. Mission and Defining Missional describes what – to me – are false dilemmae phrased in “either-or” terms.

In the “Ministry vs. Mission” post, it is phrased by an elder interviewing minister candidates: Are you a minister or an evangelist? (In other words, is your focus “inner” or “outer”?)

In the “Defining Missional” post (the earlier one of the two), it’s found in the comments as a description of the differences among traditional, contemporary and missional churches.

I think the choice is artificial.

Minister candidates should answer that elder’s question, “Yes.”

Churches should avoid labels like “traditional,” “contemporary” and “missional” like they were invented by Satan himself. In fact, I’m not so certain that …

Okay, I’ll back off. But isn’t the purpose of labels to divide (and conquer)? To say one is better than the other? More necessary? Morally right? Scripturally defensible?

And shouldn’t all churches be concerned about keeping their members, attracting non-members to Christ AND serving the Lord and the communities they are in?

Shouldn’t all ministers?

I respect John Alan and prefer the way he asks his question: “Which way does your church lean?” It’s more realistic; less absolute. And it has, implicit within it, an expression of danger that “leaning” too far in any given direction will put a church off-balance.

Now I have a question.

Why do we try to limit ourselves, our ministries, our success and God’s preferences by phrasing things like this in mutually-exclusive, “either-or” terms?

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6 thoughts on “‘Either-Or’ and the False Dilemma

  1. Ya know, that’s a good question, because I don’t understand either. In my mind, I’m with you, they’re NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, in my opinion, when in the perfect balance that they are supposed to be, they are almost a cycle. I agree with him that ministry is a “means to an end” of mission work. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did? He almost always met a physical need, whether healing the blind or feeding the hungry, while teaching others. I guess the problem I have is that I don’t see mission as an “end”, at least not the definition of mission that he implies. He said that our mission is to bring as many people as possible to Christ. I counter that our mission is to (and I use this word w/much caution) see that as many people as possible are “saved.” But recall the definition of “saved” that we discussed a few posts back. It is a transformation process, not just a one time thing; it is an “already-and-not-yet” thing. So to ensure that as many as possible are “saved” is to continue to meet their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs, and to be sure that they continue in that transformation process, which requires…you guessed it…ministry. Ministry, as he defines it “inwardly,” is, in my opinion, what enables those in Christ to continue to be strong enough to perform the mission work of ensuring that as many as possible are “saved.”Sorry this is almost novel-length; it is, after all, your blog, not mine.SO excited to finally meet you, you have no idea! I didn’t expect to be nervous…

  2. I appreciate your thoughts. However, when some of us, at least for me, have come from one end of the spectrum and are trying to get to the other end, it is easier to define in either/or terms. Otherwise, it is too easy to be muddled and give up on the thoughts because it can be justified that with and anything goes! Does this make sense? Sometimes, I think you have to go from one end of the spectrum to the other to see where the middle is and then you can form an “and.” But you have to see the either/or defined clearly to know where the and is in the middle. I just know for me, all this is what we use to call “navel gazing” and I got so tired of focusing only on us that we turned our faces, ears, eyes, away from outside. John Alan Turner’s thoughts have helped me to see I need more “out there” focus. I do appreciate your thoughts as well and know that balance is a key.

  3. Ii agree that we classify too many things as “either-or”…..and should stay away from that when ever we can. Having said that, Jesus did have some “either-or” comments and moments recorded in the gospels. Great post, bro!DU

  4. I had just read John Allen’s post when I clicked on yours. While I agree with your post a lot, most of us lean in one direction or the other. Some time back I began to hear the terms attractional and incarnational. These terms were much more descriptive for me. I would love to see us be able to balance and be both.

  5. Our preacher once had a sermon on this – he explained how yes, we are all to be ministers. If there were “dividing lines,” he could be considered the pulpit minister, but we were to all be ministers.

  6. Perhaps another way of stating it would be this one. Is my church actively reaching out to those outside the family of faith with acts of kindness and the gospel story, or, is our ministry mostly to our members?Grace to you,Royce Ogle

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