Kathy Sierra has an insightful post up called "Assumptions have a Sell By date", arguing that challenging our underlying, often-unseen assumptions is vital for moving innovation forward. Just because something is written in stone doesn’t mean it will be forever, or that it even had good reason for being written in stone. Maybe someone should have wrote it down on a napkin instead.
Monumental advances in science only happen when the stuff everyone "knows" is questioned. Galileo overthrew common knowledge, Einstein showed that Newton was too simplistic, quantum physics shows that Einstein didn’t quite see the whole picture, and now apparently we aren’t even sure if Newton or Einstein actually knew anything.
In church leadership, assumptions need to be challenged regularly. For example, you may think you know why people attend your church, but do you really know? How do you know? Is your method reliable? How do you know? Why do people stay away from your church? How do you know? What’s the purpose of church? What is a "church"? Is the current system the best way to accomplish the goals of the church? What is the function of meetings? What’s the best way to help people grow closer to God? What does it actually mean to get "closer to God"? You can see that the rabbit hole of assumptions can be pretty deep.
In theology, assumption had to be challenged in order for the Reformation to come about. Today there are a number of "sacred cows" of evangelical theology that are being questioned and challenged. This is a very good thing, because an unchallenged assumption can be a dangerous thing. The traditional doctrines may be vindicated in the end, or they might need reforming. Either way, we’re going in the right direction. It’s always good to question your assumptions. Make the examination brutal, make the assumption beg for its life, make it prove its right to exist.
If I can be spooky for just a minute, I’d say that we are in a God-designed season of questioning and shaking, especially in the realms of theology and church leadership. You heard me: it’s a good thing, it’s a God thing. That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily coming up with all the right answers (yet), but it does mean that I believe God is guiding the church into a season of holy questioning, where we ask fundamental questions about the nature of the gospel, the church, and God’s mission in the earth. God’s rattling our cage a little bit, and it can be unnerving.
Contrary to what some think, this process won’t make you tentative and wavering. The purpose of questioning assumptions is to ground yourself (or your church, your science, your theology, your family) more fully in reality, thus making you actually more able to deal effectively with whatever life throws at you. Questioning assumptions gives you firmer ground to stand on, gets you closer to the truth, and makes you a more effective person/leader/thinker, etc.
Ron Allen says the last words of the church are "We’ve never done it that way before." I believe him.
It’s time for the church to wake up and realize God’s shaking us up a bit, and that it’s a great time to challenge and question your assumptions about the gospel, church, even God himself.
Bob Harvey says
A thoughtful, helpful entry. On the picky, language side, I would prefer to say our purpose, etc is towards grounding ourselves more fully in truth rather than reality. In reality, I am all messed up, undisciplined and easily influenced. In Truth, I am accepted, loved, learning discipline and better influenced etc. My reality has a lot of untruth in it. Truth transends my reality. I need to go for that.
Benjamin Sternke says
To continue being picky with language 😉 I would say that truth IS reality. I understand where you’re coming from, but I would call what you’re calling reality something else, like experience, maybe. Experiences can be messed up and false if they are based in deception or ignorance.
My definition of truth is simply the way things are, which is my definition for reality. The way things are (reality) is messed up, because we haven’t lived on the basis of the way things really are (reality – God being Ultimate Reality).
That said, I see where you’re coming from… I just don’t like to differentiate between truth and reality, because it makes truth into the capitalized, spiritualized, mysticized concept. I want to keep it down-to-earth and understandable.