Rethinking Sacred Assumptions

Some of our assumptions could turn out to be all wrong.

Source: 2022 Tweet by Adam Grant @AdamMGrant with a tiny edit from me.

What are your sacred assumptions about Church?

  • Can we be a real church if we don’t have a 9:30 am Bible Study on Sundays?
  • Can we be a growing church if we don’t have a youth group?
  • Can we be a respectable church if we don’t offer Vacation Bible School in the summertime?
  • Can we be a faithful church if there are people in our pews who have doubts about Jesus?

To be a thriving congregation, many of assume that church calendars must include a Sunday morning Bible Study, a Sunday evening Youth Group, a summer VBS week, and a sanctuary full of faithful believers each week. Can we even be a real church if we don’t have our own seminary-trained pastor?

It’s Adam Grant Week on this blog and his wisdom on how we think is absolutely relevant for all kinds of organizations – including holy ones. Among the sacred assumptions he held in 2021 that he was rethinking by January 1, 2022 (source):

  1. Hire experienced staff members with long track records. Hire curious learners.
  2. Work long hours without vacation time to achieve optimum achievement. Rest for the purpose of recharging to achieve optimum achievement
  3. Write because you have something to say.  Write in order to think through your ideas.
  4. Convince others to rethink their opinions by arguing your points. Convince others to rethink their opinions by listening to their views as if you are interviewing them.
  5. Spend time only with people who agree with you.  Spend time with people who disagree with you.

As far as the sacred assumptions in many of our churches go:

  • Can we be a real church if we don’t have a 9:30 am Bible Study on Sundays?  Maybe the best time for people to gather for a Bible study is at 7 am on Tuesday mornings on their way to work.
  • Can we be a growing church if we don’t have a youth group?  Maybe “your” youth are kids who need an after school program.
  • Can we be a respectable church if we don’t offer Vacation Bible School in the summertime? Maybe your church could offer a summer series on 4 consecutive Friday nights or invite those after school program kids for a week of dinner and storytime with their families.
  • Can we be a faithful church if there are people in our pews who have doubts about Jesus? Maybe your congregation is the perfect way station for people who are trying to figure out the meaning of life (and how great that they are considering Jesus.)

Long held beliefs – especially if they are in any way connected to God – are really hard to shift. And yet, part of being a healthy 21st Century Church (or organization of any kind) involves rethinking what we’ve always assumed the the best and/or only way to do something.

A middle-aged parishioner once declared to me that he “hadn’t changed his views on the Bible since the second grade” as if this is something to be proud of. What it said to me was that he was spiritually immature and incurious about what God has been trying to tell him for the past 50 years.

Our spiritual assumptions are tied up with our spiritual identities and it’s okay – and holy – to allow the Spirit to move us to think in new ways. Jesus did that every day with the Twelve and other followers.

And also treating our long held assumptions as gospel is idolatry. There’s that.

You can order Adam Grant’s book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know here.

One response to “Rethinking Sacred Assumptions

  1. Here’s a harder question to follow after the youth group question: Can we still be a church if we aren’t growing? Is it possible for a church to die an honorable natural death after serving a long life of faithful service, or do we have to keep going (not the same as “alive”) no matter what? And another I often ask, “Do we have to do everything ourselves for it to be “mission” or can we partner to do more — even if our partners are from other denominations, or other religions, or secular organizations?”

    Like

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