Plato, in his writing The Republic, made this now familiar statement: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It is a pithy expression that captures the idea that, as one observer noted, “dire situations inspire ingenious solutions. If worse comes to worst, people will apply all their imagination and skill to deal with the problem.”
The current economic crisis in our nation is having severe repercussions on all segments of our culture. Church and ministry organizations are not immune. In times of crisis some people prefer to pull the covers over their heads and hope the problems disappear. Others find that the stress accompanying their troubles sets them on edge, resulting in arguing and fighting. Yet other individuals roll up their sleeves, assess the problems, and begin to devise solutions.
Our new president is challenging our nation to be a “roll up the sleeves” type of people. While addressing the country’s needs during his recent inaugural address, President Obama stated, “Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests, and putting off unpleasant decisions-that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.” In keeping with America’s history, it is likely that new technologies, new processes, and new businesses will emerge out of this challenging time.
As we consider our local churches and ministry organizations, how are we responding to the problems we are facing? The economy, the culture, and the world are pressing us. Pulling up the covers is not an option, nor is argument or division. We must use our collaborative energies to invent creative solutions. In doing so, we must maintain our dependence upon God. However, He has designed us as responsible stewards who are meant to take action within the parameters of His Word.
When the early church faced the hostility of Christianity’s opponents, the believers refused to wave the white flag. The backlash against believers was felt in homes, on the job, and in neighborhoods. Basic necessities such as food and funds were often scarce. How did the church respond? Acts 4:32-35 tells us: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. . . .
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” This was the early churches’ version of a workers’ co-
operative; they creatively combined resources so that all would have their basic needs met. Necessity truly was the mother of invention.
When a problem arose in a church over the care of widows (Acts 6), some congregants chose to argue and divide. The apostles proposed an innovative solution that would meet basic physical needs and ensure Biblical integrity in church teaching. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3, 4). What a remarkably innovative arrangement! What a shame it would have been if the church people had divided and found fault rather than sought creative solutions.
Lack of funding did not keep the early church from meeting. They used homes and borrowed settings to gather for instruction, worship, and fellowship. In doing so, they kept their overhead costs to a minimum. Limited resources for salaries didn’t stop church planters. Like Paul, they were willing to work another job to produce essential income.
The challenging circumstances of our day require innovative problem solving. Bible colleges are reexamining their educational approach by introducing distance learning. In the quest of achieving academic excellence and balanced budgets, what if the schools found a way to share their gifted faculty with one another?
Innovations can burgeon during times of adverse conditions in local churches. What if . . . a pastor preaches in two churches in an area rather than in one? . . . churches fit their Sunday worship and instruction into one time slot instead of two, saving travel costs for members? . . . group interaction takes place online in the disciple-making process?
What other possibilities should we consider? This is the time for a reformation-not a doctrinal reformation, but an operational reformation. Necessity is the mother of invention. The great needs of our times are opportunities for creative problem solving. Let’s roll up our sleeves and innovate!
John Greening is national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.