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A New Definition Of Illiteracy

REFLECTION: Thinking more deeply about ministry
Today’s reflection is not for the faint of heart. So, get a cup of orange juice and a bowl of oatmeal and get ready to read.

The following quote is from a book I’m reading entitled, “Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World” by JR Woodward.

“The sociologist Alvin Toffler once rightly observed that the illiterate of the future will not be those that cannot read or write. Rather, they will be those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. If you are indeed willing to unlearn the cloying, missionally impotent ecclesiology of the traditionalist paradigms, and subsequently relearn what the Bible itself (and the history of missions) directly says in this matter, then there will be much hope.”


Two things jump out at me from the above quote. First, it’s the new definition of illiteracy. As the author highlights, the new illiteracy relates to one’s ability to learn, or more precisely, to unlearn limiting practices and relearn empowering ones. Human beings tend to be creatures of habit and these routines can shelter us from exploring new ideas and experiences. Please understand, habits are not necessarily bad. In fact, they help us through our day. They make life more effortless and often promote comfort. But, if ministry practices are never re-examined, illiteracy will mark the ministry. It will stymie growth, reach, and connection with our mission field.

The second observation is this: previous paradigms of ministry probably need to be re-conceptualized to rebirth missional vitality. The truth is that many leaders already realize this already but just needs to figure out how to make the change. To strengthen ministry, you can read a book. Attend a conference. Talk to another leader. Take a class. Listen to a podcast. Watch a webinar. These are all great ways to stimulate creativity in the re-conceptualization process. I would recommend something in addition to these: talk to an unbeliever. If our mission is to reach lost people, then perhaps we should talk to lost people and figure out what they think is important. The church must always be biblically organized but this does not preclude incorporating ideas from those we are reaching.   Remember, learning comes in a lot of forms.

Since you’re reading this eNews, I know you are not illiterate in the traditional form. I trust you are not illiterate as defined earlier, either. Life is too short to do ministry habitually. So…

Look up and see your destiny!
Genesis 15:5