18 August 2008

calvin, hobbes, and church growth

When engaged in discussions surrounding the notion of church growth, I tend to move forward cautiously.  This is because I believe that we can too easily err on the side of taking every newly packaged, refurbished idea which overemphasizes its particular strength of "every healthy church."  In this context, I humbly offer the following thoughts.

First. . .What is the point of church growth?  How we answer this is revealing to our motives and theology.  Further, can we be accused of identifying particular church growth ideals without actually making them an actualization in our practice?  So if we can move beyond the pat Sunday School-type answers, we might find that much of our church growth (and administration/leadership) come under two broad categories: inward stability and outward mobility.  These, I submit to you, are the Calvin and Hobbes of modern evangelicalism.

[N.B. - The designations Calvin and Hobbes are meant to refer here to the two great philosophical minds which frequented daily newspapers during the latter half of the twentieth century, not the other fellows you've learned of in Philosophy 101]

Hobbes: Inward Stability: The notion that we find security in our surroundings, like big cats who sit comfortably next to a fire and only occasionally engage in the surrounding world, mostly when it is convenient and self-beneficial.  Even like those of the domesticated variety, these are typically animals who do not wish to be bothered, touched or disturbed when they are going on about their business but have no qualms over interrupting, bothering, touching and disturbing others whenever they feel like doing so.

Calvin: Outward Mobility: The desire to be significant no matter how foolish it may look, often wanting to work with the big cats but who often find the process too intimidating.  The personality found here is the self-perception that they are of great significance and need to benefit others by sharing their importance with the world (even though others rarely regard them as being of great significance at all).

Broad strokes over rough edges, I admit.  But the fundamental idea is intact (I think). . .to which end church growth?  Do we desire bigger congregations just so that we might find the 'large church' stability?  Or do we want to see the kingdom of God move in spite of our virtues and over our vices?  One might be able to argue that these two animals would be incomplete without each other.  Maybe.  But this might assume that strength and security are found/achieved in places other than the Spirit.  And security is not all bad, either. . .rather, "I would rather live on the verge of falling and trust in the all-sufficiency of Jesus. . ." (:rich).

Once again, it's all about motive.

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