A "bandwagon" is a wagon that carries a band in a parade, circus, or other entertainment. The phrase 'jump on the bandwagon' was first used in American politics in 1848 as a result of Dan Rice, President Lincoln's court jester. Campaigning for Zachary Taylor, Dan Rice, a professional circus clown, used his bandwagon for Taylor's appearances, gaining attention by way of the music. As Taylor's campaign became more successful, more politicians strove for a seat on the bandwagon, hoping to be associated with the success. Later, during the time of William Jennings Bryan's 1900 presidential campaign, bandwagons had become a standard fixture of campaigns,and 'jump on the bandwagon' was used as a derogatory term, implying that people were associating themselves with the success without considering what they associated themselves with. (wikipedia)
I've shared with you, in several posts, excerpts from, thoughts about, and reactions to the book, Pagan Christianity, by George Barna and Frank Viola. The danger that lies in books of the confrontational and provocational genre is that there are those who will simply "jump on the bandwagon" without thinking critically about that which is written. These are books that tug at the emotions. They tap into an existing, latent conviction. They dig deeply into an already festering wound.
I'll say right here that after reading the book and reflecting back on my previous studies of church history and experience as a pastor, I find very little in this book with which to disagree. These gentlemen have done their homework. And they have presented their findings (findings that shake the ecclesiastical world to its foundations) with boldness, humility and grace.
When you reach the end of the book, and find yourself agreeing with what you've read, the natural response is to ask, "Now what? Where do I go from here?" Here is where the "bandwagon effect" finds its potential as a negative and harmful response. There are some who will finish reading this book and immediately go on the offensive against the church. They'll immediately pull themselves and their families out of church. They'll begin a propaganda campaign against churches, denominations, pastors, and anyone else who chooses to continue going to a Sunday morning service. And rather than recapturing the spirit, essence, and power of the early church, they will become just as toxic as the institutional issues they now crusade against.
I'll admit that I have to carefully guard against the "bandwagon effect." I am most stirred to action by talk of "revolutions" and "movements." Confrontation and provocation comes easily to me. I know that there are times when confrontation and provocation are necessary. But I also know that confrontation and provocation in the spiritual sense should, if it is of God, reflect His holy nature and point hearts and minds toward His Kingdom and not away.
So how should we respond upon reading the final page of Pagan Christianity? Prayer. Dialog. Prayer. Parallel action.
We should immediately enter into a season of prayer in which we ask the Spirit of God to lead us into all truth. We have to talk through our convictions, even if it appears that those with whom we are talking aren't getting it. Out of this I believe God will lead us into parallel action. What I mean here is that we should be open to God using us to create a preferred church future without attacking and tearing down the current system.
I'm thinking about the parable of the wheat and the tares. There's no doubt that the enemy has sown tares among the ecclesiastical wheat over two-thousand years of history. We must speak out loud and clear against clear heresy. But I think there are also times when we should focus on nurturing the wheat rather than ripping up the tares. The issues raised in this book are examples of this. God is present and working in the conventional church. The church I am presently a part of is an example of this. Instead of attacking the conventional, we should spend our time tilling soil, planting seed, watering, and nurturing that which is unconventional yet wholly Biblical. I once shared with a friend whom I though was doing more harm than good in his crusade that we don't have to tear something down to prove ourselves right. Instead we should simply create what is right and let our fruitfulness speak for us.
I am about to launch a new writing project called Church Detox. Your first response may be to think that I'll use this project to convince people to detox themselves from the church. You would be mistaken. My goal with this project is to recognize that the "church" is the people of God, to identify toxins within us that diminish our Christ-likeness and fruitfulness, and to think forward about how to till the soil, plant the seed, and nurture the growth of a new way of life as the Priesthood of Believers, light of the world, salt of the earth, and participants in God's redemptive mission to humanity.