Karl Vaters on Why Church Methods Don’t Matter – Until We Do Them Wrong

Image: Camille Orgel | Unsplash

The church won’t change the world by adopting new methods. We won’t even save the church that way.

What will change the world is a praying church. A loving church. A worshiping church. An outward-reaching church. A Jesus-centric church.

The Great Commandment and the Great Commission are all that matter. They haven’t changed in 2,000 years because they don’t need to.


I’m going to use new methods anyway.

To understand why, here’s an example of necessary change from the history of typing. Yes, typing.

Double-Spacing (A Real-Life Parable)

If you’re my age (born in 1959) or older, you were probably taught to double-space between sentences when typing. Why? Because our teachers had been raised in an era when most typewriters used monospace font, with every letter taking up the same amount of width on the page.

Those old typewriters left huge gaps of white space on either side of thin letters (like i), while wide letters (like m) were squeezed together. Double-spacing was needed after each period to made sentence breaks clear, aiding in readability.

That all changed in the 1950s and ’60s, when typewriters with proportional spacing became popular. Thin letters took up less page space, while wide letters used more, with uniform gaps between them. Those new typewriters also provided just the right width between sentences with just one touch of the space bar. Suddenly, double-spacing was not only unnecessary, but the big out-of-proportion gap they created made documents harder to read, not easier.

But old habits die hard.

Since most people were never taught why double-spacing was needed on the old typewriters, they didn’t understand the need to switch to single-spacing. Double-spacing was what they’d been taught and that’s what they would teach their students. So an entire generation learned to do it wrong.

Computers use proportional spacing. Double-spacing not only isn’t needed, it actually causes too much space between sentences, getting in the way of smooth reading and comprehension. The method we were taught to make our writing more readable then actually makes it less readable now.

Today, when I see the occasional email or a blog post with double-spacing, I know two things. 1) It will be a little harder to read, and 2) the author is my age or older.

If you’re still using double-spacing between sentences, here’s a very blunt message from the technology columnist for the NY Times. “Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.” (Emphasis his).

It doesn’t matter that it used to work, or that it used to be right. Today’s reality is that it doesn’t work any more, so it’s not right any more.

Thus endeth the typesetting history lesson.

Now, back to today’s church methods.

Don’t Let the Method Hurt the Message

If I wrote my blog posts using two spaces between sentences, it wouldn’t change my content one bit. And the content is all that matters. But it would change something very important – how people read my content.

Double-spacing would draw attention to itself and away from the content, putting an unnecessary gap (literally) between my content and people’s ability to read it. Why would I use a method that does that? Why would anyone?

But we do that in church all the time. We insist on using methods that have long outlived their usefulness, often while loudly insisting that methods don’t matter.

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Source: Christianity Today