I’ve been in the ministry for almost ten years. While I have kept a journal to record events and thoughts, I haven’t written down the various Christian fads that have come and gone in the past ten years. It is easy to see, however, that Christian fads are like other fads: they are cool and trendy for a short while, then people quickly move on to the next best thing (think how quickly Pokemon Go came and went!). Our fad-loving culture is a consuming culture. Sadly, Christian fads leave people discontent, restless, and can lead to spiritual burn-out. Michael Horton understands this and addresses it well in his 2014 book Ordinary. In the second part of this book, called “Ordinary and Content,” Horton utilizes three familiar words – reduce, reuse, and recycle – to keep Christians from the harmful effects of fads:
We need to reduce the distractions and voracious consumption. Many things that we do as ‘something more’ aren’t bad in themselves. Yet collectively they contribute to a whirling buzz of confusion that keeps us from fixing our eyes on Christ and his kingdom and his ordinary means of grace. We never move on from the gospel to something else.
We also need to reuse the resources that God has given us from the past. Forms that frame the public service – common prayer, praise, and confession – are ways of thoughtfully drawing on Scripture so that Christ’s word dwells in all of us richly. A trellis does not make a vine grow, but it does make it grow in the right direction.
We also need to recycle. This involves two moves: returning to the sources and adapting them to our time and place. Recycling should not be equivalent to simply repeating slogans and formulas. We need to exercise discernment as we evaluate older forms and practices, but we do not have to invent everything ourselves. Older forms, songs, and prayers are not better because they are old, but because they are family treasures in the attic. We need to ensure that our forms actually communicate with people in our time and place, but we do not have to change everything with each generation.
God even recycles ministers. They come and go, but the ministry is the gift that keeps on giving.
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