What is a paradigm? The dictionary definition is helpful.

par·a·digm

/ˈperəˌdīm/

noun: paradigm; plural noun: paradigms

1. a typical example or pattern of something; a model.

A paradigm is an example or pattern. However, it is not helpful to merely equate a new word with an old word. If that is all we do, then we need not use the new word. So, let me define this word further. A paradigm is a pattern that we hold to be the normal way of things. It is an example that shapes our understanding not merely an example like a picture in a how-to-draw book. The picture is one example of how one might draw something, but it is not exactly the same thing as a paradigm. However, if one was exposed to another drawing of the same thing, then he would begin to build a paradigm in his head of what constitutes a drawing of the horse or eye, or vase. In this example, still more pictures would continue to add to his paradigm until he might begin to recognize the commonality found in all of them. 

A paradigm is a pattern or example that is a typical or a model example. A paradigm serves to form or shape our understanding of the world around us with regard to a specific kind of person, place, or thing. 

If our paradigm of what constitutes barbecue is merely that of meat cooked outside on a grill, then we will go to a neighbor’s backyard party where the hot dogs and hamburgers are cooked outside on the grill and we will call it a barbecue. “Are you coming to the neighborhood barbecue?” On the other hand, what happens when we learn that barbecue is actually the name of a very careful and delicate process wherein portions of meat that are normally undesirable due to high fat content or other connecting tissue are cooked over indirect heat at low temperatures for very long periods of time usually involving a smokey hardwood fire so that the chewy or otherwise undesirable parts of the meat are rendered soft and delicious? What happens to our paradigm of barbecue? It should be changed so that we now prefer the name “cook out” for the party featuring hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill in the backyard.

Okay Pastor Charles, why is it important that we understand what a paradigm is? I will tell you. We all have paradigms. We all have a set of examples in our minds for most things that we encounter in this world.

We all have paradigms that have been constructed over long periods of time with regard to our understanding of who God is and what He has done. Last Sunday, we meditated together about the necessity of believing in our hearts. Another way of saying this is that we must allow the Bible to form our paradigms. 

When the disciples encountered Jesus, they were forced to embrace a radical paradigm shift. The people of God, in their minds, were jewish. That was their paradigm.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry and most of the book of acts, God had to break down their preconceived notions in order to create a paradigm of the people of God being those who believe in Jesus from every tribe, tongue, and nation under heaven. 

We must be constantly looking to the Word to shape our paradigms, or we will find ourselves in the hopeless position of interpreting the world around us with reference to a faulty and distorted view. As we begin a new year, I want to challenge each of us to commit to a year of reading our Bibles with hearts open and ready to have our paradigms shifted and changed into godly paradigms based on the Bible. 

Trusting in Christ with you,

Pastor Charles