ReThink: Undermining The Church
Chapter 1: The Need to Rethink
I was recently asked to read a book written by Brad Brisco of the North American Missions Board and the Send Institute. As I dug into both Brisco, and The Send Institute, I developed grave concerns. Upon sharing these concerns with my elder, I was called to humble myself and learn to take guidance from even people I disagree with. Therefore, I have chosen to write a critique of ReThink and publish my thoughts here on the ministry page. I made this decision because the book is an assault on biblical evangelism and missions work. It is my desire to warn the Church about what I see as poison. May God be glorified.
From the outset of this work Brisco endeavors to rely wholly on the thought processes of the secular world. The opening quote of the book is from Alvin Toffler and it is telling:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
It is not inherently evil to quote a secular author such as Toffler. Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers many times; but Paul was inspired and he was making a spiritual point. However, Brisco is setting the tone as we go further into the depths of even the first chapter. Brisco, in an apparent effort to motivate the church to become more “Missional”, fails to quote so-much-as one passage of Scripture in the entirety of the first chapter. Moreover, Brisco establishes an ultimatum of sorts with his opening quote. He wants to change the way the Church thinks, and he will spend the body of his work trying to accomplish that task.
Pragmatism and Sabotage
Please read this quote from Brisco:
“To lead disciple-making, missional-incarnational churches that have a mind-set of reproduction will take deep cultural change in the way we think about God’s mission and the nature of the church, as well as how the church engages in that mission in local contexts. We must change our attitude from “we have never done it that way before” to “whatever it takes.”
This statement is the very definition of pragmatism and it is devoid of any biblical context. More troubling is the reference to changing the nature of the church. I can tell you from having listened to Brisco in an interview from March of this year; he is all about changing the ecclesiology of the Church. When given the chance to rebuke egalitarianism he does not. I did a series of videos critiquing that interview on my YouTube Channel.
Furthermore, the early church didn’t have a mindset of whatever it takes. It had a mindset of “preach the Gospel” to all creatures. Moreover, they had that mindset because it was the mind of Christ. The Church doesn’t incarnate Jesus, we do not embody Him. This is gobbledy-gook meant to sound awe inspiring.
Merriam and Webster define incarnate as: invested with bodily and especially human nature and form and made manifest or comprehensible. We make Christ known through the preaching of the Gospel and the proclamation of biblical truths. I do not “incarnate my life into a local setting”. We live in a local setting and love our neighbors as we love ourselves; through the ministry of the Gospel.
Not to be out done by his opening quote by Toffler, Brisco doubles down. He wants to make it clear that he has a mission. What is that mission? Changing the Church. It wouldn’t be as troubling that Brisco continues to quote from secular motivational philosophers if he also relied far more on Scripture. Instead he chooses to rely on men like Simon Sinek. Who is Sinek you may ask. Sinek is motivational speaker and organizational consultant and author. Among his works is a book called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. Brisco references Sinek in his book by talking about how Sinek says you can either manipulate or inspire people to change.
While this is true, it isn’t something we need to turn to the secular pagan world to learn. The Scriptures should be our source for learning how to inspire change in the Church. Moreover, Paul wrote two thirds of the New Testament. Most of his epistles were rebukes toward the church for where they were failing. Not to mention the truth that Proverbs 17:10 calls a rebuke a good thing for one who has understanding.
Let’s look at Brisco’s take on this model of inspiring change:
“Another way to frame the discussion is to use the language of paradigm. The word “paradigm” is commonly used to refer to a perception, assumption or frame of reference. In the more general sense, it’s simply the way we see the world, in terms of perceiving, understanding and interpreting. Every organization, including the church, is built upon underlying paradigms or assumptions. This is not the same thing as the church’s beliefs or theological systems. Rather the paradigm determines how an organization thinks and, therefore, acts. Paradigms explain and then guide behavior. If we try to restructure an organization but leave the original paradigms in place, nothing will change within the organization. Therefore, for real change to take place we need to experience a paradigm shift or, in most cases, multiple paradigm shifts.”
Brisco is wrong in how he chooses to define paradigm. The functional definition of paradigm is this:
“a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind” – Merriam and Webster
Our Cornerstone And Foundation
Furthermore, Brisco reveals his plan over and over again. He has a desire to change the structure of the church. For the Christ exalting and biblically focused church the paradigm is already established. That paradigm is Christ and His revealed Word. What Brisco is saying is that the paradigm of the Church is not the same as what her beliefs and theological systems are. Moreover, Brisco is calling for a deeper paradigm shift for the Church, and this will become apparent as the book goes on. He will push the Church to focus on being shaped by the culture instead of shaped by Her calling to worship God.
Therefore, I would posit that Brisco is battling against a strawman of the church that has a paradigm that is not defined by Her beliefs and theological systems. This strawman is no Church at all. A local body, that is part of the Bride of Christ, by must needs, will have Christ as Her paradigm. Christ is the cornerstone of the church according to Ephesians 2:19-22. Being the cornerstone He is the very strength of the churches foundation. Furthermore, every individual believer will have Christ and Scripture as their paradigm. That is all the motivation the Church needs to be about the work of God in the world.
Not Christian Or For Christians
We need to keep our focus on the Word and that will inform our decisions and our actions. Furthermore the local church isn’t an organization that needs to be managed like a corporation or a business or a secular club, it is a body. All of Brisco’s verbiage is saturated with secular business model lingo. He leans so heavily on business models and structures that he becomes guilty of what he will go on to lambaste the visible church for as the book progresses.
The entire first chapter is one long motivational speech. Brisco never refers to Scripture in the body of the chapter. There is a brief use of Isaiah 43:18-19. Moreover, it is completely ripped out of context for the sake of making it seem like God is calling the local church to a paradigm shift. In short, chapter 1 was a waste of time for Christians and we have no business using it. I mean come on, not one quote from one Christian or the bible outside of the verse in the study questions.
If you have concerns please feel free to reach out to me.
Soli Deo Gloria!