There are some buzzwords and phrases that have caused me great concern over the past several years. I hear these words from leaders in churches, schools and other ministry organizations. When these statements are made, they really sound good and something we all should want to pay attention to. Some of these phrases include:
- effective school research
- research indicates
Before I go any further, I want to say that I find it helpful to keep up with research, polls, surveys and data so that I know some of the trends that are taking place in the world. However, I am concerned when I hear ministry leaders say that they want to make data-driven decisions and that we must follow the latest trends in ministry based on various studies and research. Paul cautioned Christians about this in his letter to the Colossians.
Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware let anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:4-10 (NKJV)
In another translation it reads, see to it that no one takes you captive. This is a very strong warning that Paul gives to Christians. He lets us know that we can be deceived and taken captive by persuasive words that follow human tradition. I will never forget when my former pastor, Michael Catt, made a statement in a sermon that sent alarm bells off in my mind. He wasn’t referring to this specific passage of Scripture but my mind immediately went to verse 8 when he stated,
It is easier to be traditional than it is to be biblical!
Wow! When we base our decisions and practices on the latest data, research or programs, are we merely being taken captive by ideas that are following after human tradition? We must honestly answer this question, if we want God to bless our lives and our ministries. It is foundational to all we are and do.
Jesus had some stern words for the religious leaders of his day that relates to this very same topic. In Matthew 15, the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus why His disciples broke the tradition of the elders? Jesus’ answer cut to the core of the issue.
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? Matthew 15:3 (NKJV)
Jesus gave a specific example of how their traditions were actually going contrary to Scripture. He followed this example with a scathing rebuke.
Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:6 (NKJV)
In another translation of verse 6, it reads that you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Unfortunately, it is easier to do schooling according to human tradition while it is very difficult to do it biblically. When we look at Christian school education around the world today, we need to ask the question,
Is it being done biblically or are we simply trying to Christianize the human traditions of how schooling is to be done?
When we get down to the basics of what research and data actually are, we would have to realize that research and data are compilations of human opinion on any given subject. It could be said that research and data may actually deceive us with persuasive words. Again, I want to be clear that I believe it is important to know what research indicates but any data from research must be filtered through the truth of God’s Word. Whenever I try to broach this subject with others, some will quickly criticize me and tell me that we must stay up with the times in order to be relevant (I will address this in a future blog) with today’s culture. That sounds good but, once more, is that saying human opinion and research should be the driving points for how we educate our children and youth?
Here is my challenge for all of us as we look at research and data. I believe it can be valuable to be data/research-informed but our decisions must be Bible-based and Spirit-driven. For this to be a reality, we must spend more time in the Word and prayer than in studying the latest research. We must surrender our lives and our ministries daily to the control of God’s Spirit and make sure our traditions/methods/etc. don’t make God’s commandments of no effect. I would love to know your thoughts about this very important topic. Please leave a comment below.