A fallacy is simply an error in reasoning. Fallacies come in many different forms. For churches, our favorite fallacy begins as we point out that a ministry opportunity is imperfect. Having shown that the opportunity is imperfect, we then claim that we have a good reason for not even trying to accomplish the ministry. Often times, we use this fallacy as an excuse to do nothing.
I’ve been the pastor of my church for nearly four years, and I’ve seen numerous people commit this fallacy countless times. Honestly, I’ve been involved in this fallacy more times than I can count!
Here’s a real example of how this fallacy works in the local church. A few years ago, my church wanted to start having an annual work day in the spring. As we were proposing the idea, a group of people had various reasons why the church work day was doomed from the start. One reminded us that the leadership had tried having work days in the past only to stop due to a lack of involvement by the congregation. Another reasoned that since people hadn’t been involved in the past, they wouldn’t be involved now. Someone else claimed that people had way too much to do on a Saturday morning and wouldn’t be interesting in doing some spring cleaning and basic maintenance at the church. Consequently, the work day, though a noble suggestion, wasn’t worth attempting. They assured us that the church work day would be a colossal failure. We should simply save ourselves the trouble and sleep in that morning.
The fallacy here is that just because a church work day is imperfect doesn’t mean it should be abandoned! True, some people won’t be able to make it to the church work day. However, that doesn’t mean that we should cancel it altogether! A better option is to show why it’s important, promote the idea, and be thankful for the people who do show up. The church work day is definitely imperfect; however, its imperfections don’t render it useless!
There are a few things churches must do to counteract this fallacy. First, churches have to remember that all ministry opportunities are inherently imperfect. If we sit around waiting for the ideal ministry to come along, we’re going to be waiting a while! Ideal ministries don’t exist; instead, we have to take imperfect opportunities and make the best of them. Second, we can’t fear failure in ministry. Good ministries are going to fail sometimes no matter how hard we work. If Jesus was occasionally rejected by the people he tried to minister to, we shouldn’t be surprised when people don’t respond well to our ministry efforts. After all, in John 15, Jesus told his disciples that the world would treat them like they treated Jesus.
Our churches work hard to use imperfect ministry opportunities to make a positive impact for God’s glory. We always have to overcome various hurdles. In this process, ministries are going to fail sometimes. However, difficult ministry is where God works. In exhausting, imperfect, long-term, ministry, we see God change lives, mend marriages, and turn entire families into devoted disciples. To get to this point, however, we have to move past our favorite fallacy. Just because a ministry opportunity is flawed is not a sufficient reason for us to do nothing!