The O’Malley Method

“But Mr. O’Malley, you already drilled five wells on your property and they’ve all been dry.  Why do you keep drilling?”

“I keep drilling, hoping for different results.”

“But isn’t that a waste of money and time?”

“Not if I strike water.”

“But how will that ever happen if you keep doing it the same way?”

“Maybe if I use a different method, drill deeper, use better equipment…maybe then I’ll strike water.”

“Have you thought that all that money and time could be spent on piping water from another well or, maybe, a good rainwater harvesting system?”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion,” said O’Malley.

So many churches use the “O’Malley Method.”  Just keep doing the same things over and over, hoping for different results.  Our “drilling” is our assembly or, as it is mistakenly called, “The Worship Service.”  It is the method of choice for outreach.  “How do we get them to ‘come to church?’  Oh, I know, let’s make assembly better!  Better singing, exciting sermons, the latest presentation technology, nicer buildings.  Everyone should invite someone to church (assembly).  Okay, I know, it hasn’t worked so far, but maybe we should just try something new…something different.  Let’s have a worship team leading the singing.  Let’s try some dramatic lighting.  Maybe we should get rid of the pulpit and let the preacher wander around.  Maybe he should dress in jeans and polo shirt.

Somehow we have been deceived into thinking that the most important part of Christianity is the assembly.  We focus on what happens when we come together.  It becomes the major event…the “be all and end all.”  Churches fuss about what can and cannot be done in them.  It’s how we judge other churches.  It’s what we divide over.  We measure success by warm bodies in attendance and how much they give in “the offering.”

Here’s the irony: we claim to follow a man who never spoke of an assembly and spent precious little time in them.  Aside from some work in a synagogue or two, he did all his work outside, among the people.  It was not easy or comfortable but it was what he came to do.  He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19) not merely preach to the saved.

If we don’t change our focus from assemblies to following Christ, we are in danger of fading into obscurity.  The church in Australia, America or anywhere else, cannot survive by doing the same ineffective things the same ineffective way and expect effectiveness to magically result.

No one asked for my opinion, but Mr. O’Malley had better change his focus or he will remain dry.  We had better change ours or we will dry up and blow away.



Filed under Christlikeness, church, Community, discipleship, Evangelism, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, South Pacific

6 responses to “The O’Malley Method

  1. Amen, amen and amen!!

    I’ve often said to my assembly that one of the chief downfalls of the local church is when they stopped meeting outside and took the meeting indoors. The Sermon on the Mount takes place outdoors. Jesus feeds 5,000 then 4,000 outdoors. Peter preaches on Pentecost outdoors. Jesus sees a flower and says, “Consider the lily.” Now I have to find one on the internet and show it on PowerPoint!

    Furthermore, we’ve taken our faith indoors. Instead of living our love for Christ out in the open and on the street corners of our lives, we invite people “to church” so the pastor can tell them about Jesus. I refuse to be a hireling that shares the gospel with people because the congregation is too scared to tell their neighbor about the love of God. So now I’m teaching them how to tell others. Besides, if what I’m preaching as the pastor is the most important event of the week, then we’re all in trouble and the people are to be pitied for following a follower.

    Thanks for the post.



  2. dwhitsett

    Thanks for the comment, Jim! Sounds like you and I are on the same wavelength!

  3. Great post. I agree wholeheartedly. Our churches have become halls for ministry type parlour games. The real ministry is OUTSIDE of the church walls!

    God Bless.

  4. Warren Holyoak

    The language we choose to use means something. When the unbiblical term ‘worship service’ has common currency, it says something about our understanding (misunderstanding?) of the worship in spirit and truth that Jesus spoke of in John 4 and Paul defined in Romans 12. I can find no place in the New Testament in which the word worship is even connected to an assembly. So where did we ever get this idea from? The temple worship of the Old Testament? Church history?

    I have been campaigning within my own congregation for over a decade to refer to our assemblies as ‘assemblies’ or ‘meetings’ rather than ‘worship services’ with very limited success, not because my brethren do not agree with me but because this usage is still so common around us.

    But there is change happening. I get the impression that the term ‘worship’ is now being used more and more to refer specifically to singing. I have been in ‘worship services’ in which the leader says something like “Now let us worship” and he means “Now let us sing”. Logically, the implication is that the whole ‘worship service’ must not be ‘worship’. I am not sure, however, that this is a change for the better!

  5. Bob Chapman

    Yep, right once again Dwight. True observation.

    So how do you figure on getting started in Abilene?
    It should make a huge difference there. My short visit there last September and my attendence in your class at the University gathering would indicate to me there are some who favour making such a transition from inside to outside as far as ministry is concerned, so round ’em up and start the drive to shake the community.

    The good old simple repetition, repetition will work out there in the shops and cafes and banks and gas stations. All one has to do is start asking those you meet for their names and giving them yours. That works all the time.

    Yesterday during our weekly prayer meeting and street out reach in country towns here in Western Australia, another preacher and I went back into a coffee shop we go to occasionally. A young girl we met there months ago was on duty. We addressed her by her name and she was just astounded that we remembered after so long. We had a tea and chatted with her. Since we last met her, she had been hearing about our regular prayer meetings and Bible teaching gatherings in a community hall on Sunday afternoons in another town. She was interested to know more about why we would drive a hundred miles twice a week just to be in their towns.

    Outreach is so simple as that and yet we’ve forget the simple art of just being somewhere and striking up a conversation about anything with anybody, hoping to find the opportunity to make it into a “woman at the well” type of experience. Of course that occasion at the well was accompanied by an exercise of the charismata with Jesus telling the woman at the well the secrets of her heart. Something we must not overlook or reject, but simply be available to experience as well if it means the saving of a soul or a whole village!

    So being out there is a mere matter of having the faith to go and the faith to expect the unexpected.

    Bob Chapman

  6. dwhitsett

    Thanks Warren…it seems to me that we need to have a better understanding of “worship” and “service” and the real purpose of assembly. Not sure that would be the cure but it might be a start.

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