He broke it. Not accidentally either. He picked it up and began wailing it against the ground like a rock star with his guitar, busting it into two pieces. But that wasn’t enough. So he picked up an axe of some sort and proceeded to chop it up like a madman with a vendetta. Hezekiah “broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made.” (2 Kings 18:38)
You probably know the story well. When Hezekiah came to power in Judah the people of God had long been worshipping other gods. Hezekiah’s first order of business was to “remove the high places, smash the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.” He then turned his attention to the bronze snake Moses had made, and broke it into pieces because “the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
Now think about that for a moment.
Think about the most cherished item you own that was handed down to you from someone who had a deep impact on your life. That person is now gone and the only physical connection you have to them is that one object.
Then somebody comes into your house, takes that object, and busts it into a million pieces right in front of you.
How would you feel?
Because that’s what Hezekiah did.
- The bronze serpent was made by the Lord’s commend: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole…'”
- It was made by Moses himself: “… So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole.”
- And it saved thousands of lives: “‘anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’… Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)
It’s hard to overestimate the significance the bronze serpent played in the tradition and minds of the Israelites. It was tied to their past. It saved many of them. It became a feature in their tradition in worship practices.
But soon the Israelites developed an unhealthy level of allegiance to the tradition of the bronze serpent. Soon they began to revere that tradition even more than God it would seem. And in all probability they thought that by revering the tradition of the bronze serpent, they were honouring the command of God since it was God, after all, who instructed the serpent-pole to be built.
It was a tool that God had used at a particular time to save people and draw them to repentance and closer to Himself. But the day had come to move on to newer traditions, build new customs, seek God’s guidance for developing new tools that would do for Hezekiah’s day as the bronze serpent had done in Moses’.
Every new generation faces that day afresh. And your church is facing it today.
The bronze serpent represents customs, traditions, the “we’ve always done it this way” of our churches. And people are attached to them:
- Their favourite worship style or songs
- Their particular order of service
- The typical format in their bulletin
- The typical look and feel of the overhead display
- The style of preaching
- The usual evangelism methods
- The service times
- The dress code
- (What else?)
And for good reason. These customs had a powerful impact on their lives. To strip them away without due concern or a respectable level of sensitivity is to belittle the life-changing experience that people had through them.
But a new day has dawned and new tools are beckoning the church to be used. New ways are available to you today to impact lives just as the old ways once did. Things likes:
- Church Websites
- Mobile Devices
- E-Mail subscription tools
- (What else?)
These tools can be integrated into your church. And they can reach out and impact your community. They can be used to draw people from your outside-community into your faith-community. They can be used – if you want to – to emotionally tug on people’s heartstrings. They can be used to connect your members throughout the week. They can be leveraged to reach out to a hurt and dying world.
That should be the driving force in every church. But what about the old bronze serpents in our churches? The traditions and customs that have impacted people so much? What do we do with those?
This is where I’ve found Matthew Chandler’s quote helpful:
Honor the old ways. But press into what’s new.
There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for churches today. More opportunity than ever, in fact. Please don’t squander it!
Things you can do right now:
- Open a Facebook page for your ministry.
- Open a Twitter account.
- Open an Instagram account.
- Establish a social media team (more about that in an upcoming post).
- Start a YouTube channel.
- Jump right in!
I’ll be helping you out with all of this. But the urgency is on helping churches establish a church themed website. Very shortly I’ll be launching my course: EZ Church Website Setup. Subscribe so you don’t miss it.
But don’t wait for that. Begin to press on by taking advantage of the tools God has made available to you today. If you have to (and in some case you will have to), break the old bronze serpents in your church. Salvage what you can. Honour those old customs and traditions. And break what needs to be broken. Be brave enough to move and lead outside the comfort zone. And embrace the tools that God has made available to you today.
That is how you will exhibit a good stewardship with the ministry that God has entrusted you with.
In their book Simple Church, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger write:
“Hezekiah did something that was probably perceived as being on the edge of sanity. It was a radical move. And this pleased God. In fact, there was no king like him before or after his time (2 Kings 18:5).”
Question: What other new tools, besides he ones listed, are available to you today? What bronze serpents need to be broken in your ministry? You can leave a comment by clicking here.