Falling For Fads

by Tom Wacaster (originally written in March 2016)

Some of you are old enough to remember leisure suits. It has been almost 40 years since I bought my one (and only) leisure suit. I was living in Ada, Oklahoma, and there was a J.C. Penny store on main street. Of course, the days of “Main Street” shopping seem to be going the way of the leisure suits. Leisure suits were worn with bright colorful, open collar shirts, usually coordinated to match the suit. The lapels on the suit coat were wide. For some odd reason I was attracted to the suit, and the price was not too bad when compared with the more traditional suits. After some assurance from the salesman that I really looked good in a leisure suit, I decided I’d purchase it.

I was so proud of that suit that I actually wore it into the pulpit for my evening lesson. Following the worship service one of the dear sweet sisters came to me and said, rather bluntly, “Don’t ever wear that in the pulpit again; it is not becoming!” I felt sort of like the man who bought a used car and a few months later went back to the salesman and said, “Tell me about this car again; I’m discouraged!” Well, I wore that suit on occasions until it went out of style, and then I think I sold it in a garage sale.

The late Adair Chapman once told the following story about a conversation between the elders and deacons of a certain congregation:

“What went wrong,” one of the men said, “is that the preacher came in with some ideas about how we are going to turn the community upside down. The ideas were very expensive. We wanted the church to grow, and we went along. We just didn’t stop to count the cost. The program did not work, the promoter is gone, and now we’re stuck with some long-term indebtedness that has just about paralyzed our mission work. We were foolish to fall for a fad.”

Unfortunately, the brotherhood has had its fair share of “fads” that have come and gone over the years. Some unscrupulous brethren have gone from congregation to congregation promoting a particular program, charging a lot of money for the counseling advice on how to make their particular fad work, and promising unrealistic results. In theory the fad may have really looked good; but practically speaking, what was good for one church was not necessarily good for another.

Church growth is a worthy goal, and any congregation satisfied with just keeping house is not pleasing in the sight of God. Jesus chastised the church of Ephesus for having left their first love (Rev. 2:4). They evidently had become satisfied with hard work that was not motivated by genuine love for the Lord. The church at Laodicea is a good example of a congregation that had become satisfied with keeping house, being neither hot nor cold. For that reason, Jesus warned that He was about to “spew thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Any attempt to sit on the side lines and warm ourself next to the fires of mediocrity is not the answer to the downturn in numerical growth.

Latching on to the latest fad to somehow generate numbers is not an effective means of growth either. Fads come and go; the leisure suit craze is a good example of that. The days of the “bus ministry” ran its course in about ten years. Some congregations made good use of the “joy buses” they purchased, but as the newness wore off and it soon became apparent that it would take hard work and a lot of expense to maintain such a program, churches began to bail out. In some places the old “joy bus” was turned into a “Senior Citizen Shuttle,” but that, too, has run its course in many places.

It is not wrong to be open minded for programs that work; but programs do not work without hard work on the part of the people. Someone once observed, “New and old methods should be prayerfully evaluated from the standpoint of scripture and practicality. There are few shortcuts to effective and lasting evangelism.” That same sentiment has been expressed by good brethren who have demonstrated by their love for lost souls and a willingness to work and labor for the Master, knowing they were in it for the long haul.

It has been my observation over the years that a steady application of the word of God has done more to generate growth than some of the fads that have come and gone. Remember, the word of God is likened unto leaven that, when mixed into the lump, slowly—sometimes imperceptibly—produces growth. A consistent declaration of the word of God, without compromise, is the one technique that will never be out of date. Paul told us that the power is in the gospel. It is the faith and not some fad that will win the souls of men and produce consistent growth. Fads come and go, “but the word of the Lord abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:25).

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