My friend Paula showed me a recent blog post from Skye Jethani where he writes about his “Daisy-Cutter Doctrine.” Jethani is the managing editor of Leadership Journal which is owned by Christianity Today International.

So what is this new Daisy Cutter Doctrine Jethani writes about? It is named after a military weapon designed to do intimidate the enemy with an explosion so massive, that their desire to fight is stripped away. Jethani allegorizes this weapon to the the approach many churches take toward missions. He relates his own experience with speakers at large conferences aimed at energizing the audience for the “big” mission of the Gospel. Jethani writes about these popular conference presenters this way…

Throughout the stump speech, the presenter will wax eloquent about the fate he or she foresees for the new generation of church leaders in the audience. “Your generation will do what mine could not.” “The young leaders in the church are leading the way by throwing off what’s come before.” “You will be the generation to change the world.” Convinced of their manifest destiny, the twenty-somethings will head off to breakout sessions where they will learn the skills to impact the world-usually from other twenty-somethings.

In my study of Church history, this generational bigotry has, in my opinion, been one of the biggest barriers to fulfilling God’s mission for the world. If we are going to really fulfill the Gospel mission, then it must be done by recognizing it is not the task of one “chosen” generation or one “chosen” leader. It is the task of all God’s saints working together in the unity and power of the Spirit. Jethani, goes on to explain why the Daisy Cutter Doctrine is so appealing.

The shock and awe approach to mission is extremely appealing to people shaped by consumerism. It taps into our consumer-oriented desire for big impact and feeds the assumption that large equals legit.

But there is a less incriminating [I think Jethani means “obvious” not “incriminating] reason why we are attracted to the Daisy Cutter Doctrine-a big mission seems to logically demand a big strategy… So we ask, how does Coca-Cola impact the world? How does Disney impact the world? How does Starbucks impact the world? And we forget to ask the only question that really matters: How does Jesus impact the world?

…through much of its history the church in Europe employed conventional (worldly) means to advance its spiritual mission. This resulted in the gospel being spread by the sword. We now look back at the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the slaughter of native peoples in the Americas mournfully. Centuries removed from those atrocities we wonder-how could people do such things in the name of Christ? Did they not see how inconsistent those methods were with the ways of Jesus? At the time, of course, they did not.

Jethani makes an excellent point. Let me extend his comment. I believe that each generation has its own methods to fulfill the Gospel mission. Each generation has some inherent blind-spot which feeds the mistaken notion that their methods are the enlightened path to achieving God’s call. Cultural bias is one reason why we need the wisdom of every generation to overcome our blind-spots.

The implications of this “Daisy Cutter Doctrine” are huge for our time. Jethani rightly points out some flaws within the church in seeking to fulfill our Big Mission using Big Solutions from Big Corporations, but I think he also reflects one of the major blind-spots of our culture. Does this flaw reflect Jethani’s hypocrisy? Or is it simply his own generational bias? I will share the details of Jethani’s own “Daisy Cutter Doctrine” in the next post and you can decide for yourself.

In the meantime, I want to leave you with a great quote from Phil Vischer of VeggieTales fame. Vischer’s blog is the newest link on my blogroll and his quote is the perfect shield against the Daisy Cutter Doctrine.

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During this recent interview in World Magazine, Phil Visher says:

I no longer use the word dream as a noun describing a goal. We misinterpret passages from the Bible like, “For lack of vision the people perish.” From that we run off and go, “Oh, we’ve got to have vision, we’ve got to have dreams!” But it was Henry Blackaby who first pointed out to me that when we interpret that verse to apply to our ambitions, we’re completely misinterpreting it. A better, contemporary translation is, “For lack of revelation the people throw off restraint.

We’re not called to be a people of vision, we’re called to be a people of revelation. God speaks and we follow. We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true” and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.

That doesn’t mean I just sit here waiting for God to hand me a Post-it note with tomorrow’s agenda. But I brainstorm, I have ideas, I put them on the wall, and I pray about them. Then one of those ideas will start to percolate a bit, start to bubble, and then I chase the bubble to see if that’s where God is moving me. But if suddenly God seems to be moving me in a different direction, I let go of that idea, because it’s just an idea. If I keep calling it my dream, I’m holding on to it too tightly until it becomes something I can’t let go of. And the only thing I can’t let go of is God. Everything else should be held with an open hand.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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