Efficiency

by Richard on April 25, 2008

Where on earth did we get the notion that “efficiency” is a Christian virtue? There’s a place for it, of course, and there’s no virtue in inefficiency for its own sake. But you’d have a very hard time getting from the teaching of Jesus and the life of the early church to an advocacy for efficiency.

For example, what is Jesus teaching about evangelism? It’s like this he says. A farmer went out to sow seed… What characterizes the sower is inefficiency. He scatters everywhere, without thought to what will ‘work’. And who is ‘the greatest’ in the Kingdom of God? Not the one who is best able to get things done. A child. The least and lowest. What does Jesus tell the rich man who wants to follow him? Not ‘invest what you have wisely so that we can make sensible use of the resources you bring’. He says, “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor…THEN come and follow me”. And don’t forget those parables in which Jesus pictures the pattern of God’s love. You know the ones, about things that are lost. A man with 100 sheep loses one, and then leaves the 99 and to pick up the missing one. A father with two sons, one of whom is dutiful and does all that he should, the other who is a scoundrel and a waster. The father loves the second as much as the first. Where’s the efficiency in that. A vineyard owner hires people throughout the day, and in the end pays all a day’s wages. fair? Efficient? Certainly not! Then there’s the woman who is commended for wasting a jar of expensive perfume in a single act of extravagant worship.

And when the apostles are looking for a replacement for Judas, they start on the right track, drawing up a shortlist of people. But then they forget all about proper ‘human resources’ procedures and draw lots for who should get the job!

‘Management’ has a place. It does. But its role is servant of the church, not master. The techniques and insights it offers can be useful, but they are not value-free and beyond theological critique.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 04.25.08 at 10:25 am

Brilliant biblical exposition/demolition, Richard. Thanks.

And to redemption you could have added creation - the exorbitant wastage in what the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould called (in the title of his famous book) Wonderful Life. You could call it the Theory of Idiotic Design.

There is a theological term for such divine inefficiency: grace.

2

Jonathan Marlowe 04.25.08 at 12:20 pm

I like to think of the parable of the man who had two sons as the parable of the prodigal father. It is the FATHER who is most prodigal, by throwing a wild party for his lost/found son, and inviting everyone, even his ungrateful older son. Efficient people would never be so prodigal as to kill the fatted calf for this no good son who had publicly embarassed his father.

Hat Tip: Barbara Brown Taylor

3

PamBG 04.25.08 at 12:25 pm

A farmer went out to sow seed… What characterizes the sower is inefficiency.

Inefficiency and generosity with it.

I was thinking the other evening about ministry. It occurred to me that the most important ministerial work is ‘being with’ people - inherently inefficient. The world values ‘getting things done’ which is why we have no time to stop and be human. This is why it is important for Christians to do ‘inefficient’ things if we really want to minister to people.

4

Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 1:10 pm

Richard you say:

“A farmer went out to sow seed… What characterizes the sower is inefficiency. He scatters everywhere, without thought to what will ‘work’.”

With respect, you clearly know less about farming than you do about the modern workplace. The broadcast method of sowing was, and is, notoriously inefficient, unless the farmer chose the right soil, which is not always possible. Do you think a farmer would deliberately seek out stony ground?

What sort of farmer in any culture, at any time, in any climate is going to throw seed around and use up energy “without thought to what will ‘work’ “. If anything that parable is an indication about the need to choose soil and targets very carefully - the exact opposite of your “dat-extrapolation”. Agricultural technology for centuries has been trying to ensure that every seed is sown to the best advantage.

If a farmer walked into a church and heard that sort of fantasy from the pulpit they’d never set foot in the place again.

This is just self justifying piffle of the worse sort. The sadness is that you just cannot see it. God doesn’t want us to waste resources, that’s why some methodis of farming and systems of agriculture are, I believe, wrong.

I think I’m the only Methodist blogger to ever write about agriculture and land use. Take a look at my post from March 11:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2008/03/bring-back-cap.html

It verges on blasphemy to suggest that God wants us to make inefficient use of the resources he has endowed - the most valuable of which is the nine inches of topsoil that adorns our land.

Sometimes it pays to take a step back.

Perhaps it would help if you read today’s post on Methodist Preacher. It was actually insprired by your defence of inefficiency earlier this week:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2008/04/must-church-resist-change.html

5

PamBG 04.25.08 at 1:32 pm

Well, that’s quite clear to me. We have different religions, then.

I’ve more familiar with the ‘better safe than sorry’ alternative God -the one with a raging temper who is waiting for people to slip up so that the can smite us.

But I’ve confess that I’ve never heard about the mean and penny-pinching time-and-motion-study God before - the one who only bothers with people and things that are worthwhile.

The Scriptures speak of a God generosity. It’s bordering on blasphemy to suggest that he is otherwise.

6

Beth 04.25.08 at 1:56 pm

MP, how about considering the lilies of the field for a while?

Reading your blog and your comments, you seem to be keen on being the “first” or the “only” one to do a particular thing. Innovation can be a great thing, but it can also limit our ability to sit back and listen to others, following where they may lead. Sometimes, being inefficient and trying out stupid ideas is the best way to innovate.

I agree that sometimes Churches are frustratingly slow to change and take on new things. But I don’t think that’s what Richard is arguing for. He’s arguing for a widening of perspective - not being content with the 99 who fill the pews every week, but going out to search for the one who is still lost. Not paying our congregations’ hire according to how long they have been church members or what work they do, but according to how much God loves them - i.e. equally and unconditionally.

I heard yesterday about a famous old Swansea preacher, whose name escapes me (Kim will know), who caused great scandal by going out and pulling people off the streets and bringing them to his Church. Our churches are not owned by their regular congregations, places to be jealously guarded and used efficiently. They are places whose doors should be flung wide to everyone, and to hell with the insurance costs and electricity bills that generates!

7

tortoise 04.25.08 at 2:05 pm

With respect… I love that term. It’s so often used to mean the opposite of what it says, or as a “get out of jail” card for what one’s going to say next… Anyway, I digress…

MP, it seems pretty clear from the remark of Richard’s that you quote, that he’s fully aware of the shortcomings of the ‘broadcast method’ of sowing seed. Even I, suburban boy that I am, would venture to suggest that it’s hardly rocket science.

What sort of farmer in any culture, at any time, in any climate is going to throw seed around and use up energy “without thought to what will ‘work’ “? Er, the farmer in the parable apparently (Mark 4.3-20, Luke 8.5-15). And as Richard’s other examples amply demonstrate, Jesus has a habit of surprising and scandalising us with parables that endorse profligate inefficiency.

If anything that parable is an indication about the need to choose soil and targets very carefully. Really? Nowhere in either Gospel’s retelling of the parable does Jesus criticise this scandalously wasteful method of sowing (if I read you correctly, you’re suggesting the criticism is obvious and implicit - but that’s an eisegetical rather than exegetical proposition). Judging from Jesus’ explanation to his disciples, this seems to be a parable to give them a heads-up about different people’s response to the gospel, not a cautionary tale about conserving scarce apostolic resources.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that farmers today, reading this parable, should be slapping forehead Homer-style and immediately reverting to notoriously inefficient agricultural methods. Parables ‘work’ through a combination of analogy and surprise; analogies often have their limits, and I think it’s fair to say that the parables of Jesus tend to tell us more about modelling our relationship with God and with neighbour than they do about shrewd agricultural/ industrial strategies.

It’s also significant that both Mark and Luke follow the parable immediately with words about a lamp and a bushel. Broadcast, indeed.

8

tortoise 04.25.08 at 2:22 pm

Bah! Missed a bit off the end of my penultimate paragraph above:

It’s been suggested elsewhere that to seek to apply doctrines of effective management, PR, targeting etc to the Church is to make a category mistake - for the Church is an entirely different polis. The parables of Jesus, with their call to model God’s profligate grace in our spoken and lived kerygma, testify to this contra-distinction.

(I can think of scenarios in which faithful discipleship may also blunt our pursuit of efficiency in the world of work, too, but that’s another conversation entirely!).

9

Richard 04.25.08 at 2:55 pm

MP - if you can say “If anything that parable is an indication about the need to choose soil and targets very carefully” of the parable of the sower”, I’m not sure we have any common ground on which to discuss it at all. The whole point is surely that the sower sows inefficiently, generously (liberally!), without ‘targetting’ the good soil. You’re absolutely right. This would be a bad farming practice. But the parable isn’t about farming.

But I’ve just read what Tortoise said, so let me just add a ditto.

10

Son of the Prophet 04.25.08 at 4:04 pm

Hello to all and to Richard, my first comment on your blog and hope it will not be my last.

Let me say that I think this issue has two distinct parts and that MP is approaching from one end and everyone else from the other. I think in order for us to be an effective church and witness to the love of God we actually need to be an amalgamation of what everyone has said so far on this blog.

I think Pam is spot on when she says that people are a major part of any ministry and are a totally inefficient and unpredictable thing. I’m sure many a minister has allowed 30 minutes for a home visit and still been sitting drinking tea 90 minutes later with the time they had set aside for writing their sermon for Sunday morning slipping away. But to me here is the point, when we deal with people we have to be inherently flexible and often inefficient, but, to me, this does not automatically mean this always has to be so.

Just because we are flexible and relaxed when dealing with people does not mean that we should be so in all other areas that need our attention. I think there is a place for being ruthless and efficient in our churches and especially in a church like the one I attend where money has to be a consideration as we often struggle to balance the books.

To me I think Jesus is trying to teach us to be all rounders, i.e.. that we should not waste time when we are dealing with things that can be dealt with in an efficient manor, like dealing with accounts or day to day considerations of running a church, but also to realise that often being inefficient, especially when dealing with people,emotions, faith,bereavement and feelings (to name but a few), is actually MORE efficient. People need time, space and support. Doing the church accounts does not, and as such should be dealt with by the resource in our church most suited to perform that task and perform it well, and this is the resource most of our churches call our treasurer.

In terms of Jesus’ use of parables in his teaching I think these themselves are a perfect example of efficiency. He uses examples that are relevant to the people he was talking to and expounded difficult concepts swiftly and effectively using these analogies. Surely an example we should follow?

Well yes, but then we also need to remember we are not the Son of God, and as such things can and will take a little longer to achieve! I cannot however imagine Jesus not being pleased that we use a talent we have to achieve something as quickly as we can in order to leave our lives open to give other considerations that are less suited to being “streamlined” the attention they will deserve as inherently inefficient considerations, like dealing with people.

So, I suppose I’m really agreeing with both sides, and fence sitting isn’t a normal occurrence for me, but, in this instance, I think there is a time to be ruthlessly efficient and a time to accept inefficiency is necessary and actually beneficial.

11

Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 4:05 pm

If the parable isn’t about farming (which I think is correct) why did you use it to illustrate your point? I think there is always a danger of drawing conclusions from scripture that just arn’t there - normally the sort of thing some of the wilder elements on the opposite side of the theological spectrum to you do.

Used properly on good soil the broadcast method of sowing is not in itself inefficient. However towards the edge of the field, or on windy days, some of the seed will go astray.

Beth, good to hear the story about the Swansea preacher who dragged people in, not certain what its relevance is here. Good. Let’s have more of it. I’m sure Richard follows that example.

Pam, you say:

“I’ve never heard about the mean and penny-pinching time-and-motion-study God before - the one who only bothers with people and things that are worthwhile.”

Neither have I. A God like that, wouldn’t have sent his only Son to find and save a sinner like me, because I’m not worthwhile as countless “Christians” have made clear since on many occasions.

I believe that God’s resources should be used efficiently and with care. We are all stewards of this wonderful creation and we inherit a rich Methodist tradition. Let’s build on that and not waste it.

12

Richard 04.25.08 at 4:13 pm

Son of the Prophet: you’re absolutely right: “there is a time to be ruthlessly efficient and a time to accept inefficiency is necessary and actually beneficial”. And what drives our decision about which is when (?) in the church is what we believe. It’s faith & theology, not ‘management’ which should have the upper hand. Management has a place, but its role is servant, not master.

MP - I’m having to face up to the fact that you and I can’t speak to one another. I’m not sure whether that’s your fault, mine or a case of “six of one and half a dozen of the other”. Whatever the case is, you’re welcome to comment here, but I don’t have the energy to reply. I’ll have to leave that to others.

13

DH 04.25.08 at 4:33 pm

Richard, I’m a little with Methodist preacher on this. To me it is more obedience to Christ as to how we share the Gospel. If God tells us to do something that seems inefficient then we should do that and vice versa. “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Ib do believe that efficient at some level is important. When I read the parable of the talents I see Christ confriming “investing” and the like. Richard, you mentioned this: “Not ‘invest what you have wisely so that we can make sensible use of the resources you bring’.” Parable of the talents goes against what you said here. However, I agree to a point that God will tells us to do what seems inefficient in man’s eyes and at times He tells us to do what seems efficient in man’s eyes. To me it is more important for people to do what God tells them to do and within the context of Scripture with regard to Evangelism than any specific efficiency or inefficiency of a particular method. I will say that the “investment part” needs to be included so that is where it appears Richard and I disagree since Christ gives a perfect example in support of investing in the parable of the talents. However, there are inefficent moments of obedience to God with the “washing of Jesus’s feet”, parable of the sheep and the like.

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Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 4:33 pm

Thanks Son of the Prophet, some good points as usual.

I totally understand the difficulty of dealing with real people - I’m often told that I’m wasting time with X or Y or tilting at windmills when I take up issues. I believe God’s priority for my life is that I work in my local church - at one point I had all sorts of invitations to prestigious pulpits but declined them: our struggling church in Rotten Park is the priority, not making a name in wider Methodism.

Richard I can understand why you have withdrawn from this conversation. I really think you are making a mistake turning your blog into the standard bearer against change within Methodism.

We need innovative thinking, a lot of prayer and a real preparedness to follow God’s calling. I just do not hear God telling me, or anyone else in Methodism, to sit by and applaud decay and decline.

15

Paul Martin 04.25.08 at 5:03 pm

I can assure you David as one who has visited Sketty Methodist Church when Richard was on holiday, that people in the church there see Richard as an innovating minister

16

Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 5:35 pm

Thanks Paul, that is good to hear. He has certainly been and innovative blogger that is why I am so surprised he is setting himself against change in the wider church.

17

Joel 04.25.08 at 5:56 pm

I don’t know that the parable about sowing is the best explanation of inefficiency, but neither is it unrelated. Other stories of inefficiency abound in the Bible. And it is indeed a parable. I certainly would not want to see anyone oppose fair wages on the basis of the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Woe to them who believe they have greater knowledge than God as to what is fertile ground.

Is witnessing to tax collectors and prostitutes “efficient”? Of that day, I would suggest that most were unlikely to accept the Word. Had the Apostle Paul been “targeted” for evangelism, would that by ordinary evidences have been likely to produce fruit?

Jesus said, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’” Is that efficiency? Christ did not say, go to the street corners and invite those you think most likely to come.

Further, in the USA, efficiency in evangelism for many churches would be to avoid neighborhoods containing significant numbers of minorities. And churches composed mostly of professionals, will not find it necessarily most efficient to evangelize those without college degrees.

While John Wesley in some ways picked a “target culture” I see no evidence that he tried to sort out among the culture or society he targeted. What he was “targeting” were those left out and not on the basis of efficiency.

Methodist Preacher, do we mainly need denigration in the church? That seems to be your number one strength when you make reference to Richard. Richard didn’t “withdraw” but simply accepted the fact the you tend to pre-empt dialogue.

18

Beth 04.25.08 at 6:29 pm

I thought I’d made the relevance clear, MP - going out to find people in ones and twos is not an efficient way of reaching people, especially when you have a captive audience in your church already. But this guy still did it because he wasn’t content with having the 99 safe in the fold. Kind of the opposite of the model you seem to be espousing.

19

Richard 04.25.08 at 6:33 pm

>>Richard I can understand why you have withdrawn from this conversation. I really think you are making a mistake turning your blog into the standard bearer against change within Methodism.

Just to clarify, I’m not withdrawing from the conversation. I’m withdrawing from the conversation *with you*, because there’s no point in it. The second sentence I’ve quoted here illustrates why. I’m not against change. I’m against managerialism.

And I’m against being wilfully misrepresented.

20

DH 04.25.08 at 6:49 pm

Beth, while I agree with you, Scripture also mentions “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” as well as the “parable of the talents”. I think I agree more with Richard to a point. There are places for “efficient in man’s eyes Evangelism” and a place for “inefficient in man’s eyes Evangelism”. The main question, which I mentioned in an earlier reply, is what has God told each of us individually to do for Evangelism and to discren if it is from God or man by comparing it to God’s Word for God will never have us do anything contrary to His Word.

21

PamBG 04.25.08 at 6:58 pm

I believe that God’s resources should be used efficiently and with care. We are all stewards of this wonderful creation and we inherit a rich Methodist tradition. Let’s build on that and not waste it.

I don’t believe in wasting God’s resources. I do, however, believe in loving people. And I don’t think that there is any kind of time-and-motion-study way of loving people. It *does* require the taking of time. It *does* require the forming of relationships.

Seriously, from your comments over the last few months, I do get the picture that you want ministers to be Billy Grahams. And I use that image specifically because you seem to want us to ‘convert people’ with a low ratio of effort/conversions.

You have nixed ministers preaching ‘too much’. Nixed us visiting. Nixed us being out in the community. Nixed us doing baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

It’s all time-and-motion-study stuff. No time for anyone to grow as a disciple. No time for anyone to learn. No time for anyone to progress toward holiness. No joy that I can tell.

You boast of being a workaholic and I know that if I tell you I work 60 hours a week you’ll tell me that I’m lazy, but frankly, I want some space to be human and I do not agree with your pressurizing approach to the Christian life.

22

Ian Goodson 04.25.08 at 7:31 pm

There seems to be an unnecessary tension between good stewardship, which lies behind MP’s arguments, and profligate love, which, I think, informs Richard’s argument.

I have already posted on MP’s blog and pointed out that too many of us are wary of such talk as his owing to bad experiences with reviews, targets etc. Like Richard, I am very wary of managerialism. Having said that, I am also aware of the Church failing it its task due to a sloppy and inefficient approach.

Some years ago, I was involved in organising a conference. Someone had been deputed to draft a circular letter to be sent to churches informing them of the conference. What was produced was a typed letter, badly duplicated on a Gestetner (Look it up if you are under 40) and a candidate for the round file. I objected, at the risk of offending someone else’s hard work, and produced a brief. Asked someone in our congregation who was a graphic designer (those were the days) who pulled in some favours and we sent out a properly designed leaflet to the chuches. The end result was a succesful conference that had broken even a fortnight or so before it began.

As a result of efficiency our message was able to reach a lot of people - profligacy.

There is a question of judgement and balance here. These days the remnants of that church couldn’t organise the proverbial celebration in a brewery.

As for MP’s somewhat controversial style, I agree he does tend to polarise things. I have had many arguments with him over the years, but I have the advantage of being able to talk and pray with him. We still disagree on many things but he is a good friend and worth the effort. (He’ll have something to say about that!)

Like MP, I have found the liberal establishment deeply frustrating and, at times, very condescending. Not always, as ever there are those who enjoy the debate and respect the opponent as well as those who are convinced they are right and the opponent is a fool. This charge can be levelled at others as well. I am not getting at anyone here, merely making some observations.

One thing I have learned over the years is that if one is able to continue in prayer with, as well as for, your opponent somewhere along the line one finds a friend and a brother/sister. Where there is a refusal to pray then relationships usuaully break down. Which gives us a problem on blogs.

Suggestions anyone?

23

Kim 04.25.08 at 7:35 pm

To suggest from what he has actually said that Richard “applaud[s] decay and decline” and is “against change in the wider church”, one must be either willfully contrary or just plain illiterate - or possibly both. What Richard - and I - are concerned about is the theologically uncritical adoption of secular business techniques by the church, as if it were Ecclesia Plc. run by CEOs with their marketing-speak about organisational performance, motivation, targets, and measureable success. As the great missiologist Lesslie Newbigin put it in his critique of Donald McGavran’s Church Growth Movement: “When numerical growth is taken as the criterion of judgment on the church, we are transported with alarming ease into the world of the military campaign or the commercial sales drive.” Which leads me to add, btw, whether it is a coincidence that David (MP) is both a management shaman and a cheerleader for the British armed forces.

There is also something about the mindset of efficiency experts that troubles me: it’s got no soul. I am reminded of Dickens’ devastating polemic against the utilitarianism of his day, Hard Times, the superb opening scenes in the classroom, particularly the second chapter entitled “Murdering the Innocents”:

“Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir - peremptorily Thomas-Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exacly what it comes to.”

This is the kind of mindset that tells us that if only we pull our socks up, systematically reorganise ourselves, and put in a tremendous effort, then we will hasten the coming of the kingdom of God - which, of course, is sheer Pelagianism.

It is also the kind of mindset that is always keen to prove that prayer “works”, whereas I always begin talks on prayer by saying that it is a totally useless activity, following the late Herbert McCabe with his wonderful definiton of prayer as “wasting time with God”. Which is not to say that I am not all for petitionary prayer - especially one like “Lord, preserve us from the Gradgrinds of our day!”

24

Richard 04.25.08 at 7:56 pm

What I’ve found consistently in my blogging is that it is possible to build friendships with those with whom disagreement is constant and often profound. There’s no magic to it, it’s just the same as ‘real life’. A bit of give and take, a willingness to listen, and an avoidance of hasty conclusions.

It’s a piece of cake.

Except that I don’t seem to have been able to achieve it with MP. And I don’t think he wants to.

25

Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 8:12 pm

Given some of the abuse that has been hurled at me in response to my original post, Richard’s response and subsequent comments, readers may like to see my post for Saturday 26 April, which I thinks throws new light on the use of the parable of the sower:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2008/04/sowing-seeds-of-change-new-hope-for-new.html

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PamBG 04.25.08 at 8:19 pm

Which gives us a problem on blogs. Suggestions anyone?

The number-one rule of all written internet communication is no ad hominem discourse. Disagree with the opinion. Don’t attack the person who holds the opinion.

Constant misrepresentation of someone’s views is also a great barrier to communication. If you think I’ve said something like ‘The church shouldn’t change’ or ‘Elephants are purple’, check with me first before announcing that I’m spouting idiocies.

Also, I have genuine and huge theological problems with dividing the world into ‘them and us’. It never leads us to the truth of a situation and truth is what we are supposed to be about as Christians.

27

Richard 04.25.08 at 8:29 pm

From my perspective, it isn’t possible to have a disagreement with MP without it being interpreted as abuse. He appears to have very thin skin, but is never shy of abusing others. That’s just my perspective, of course…

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Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 8:33 pm

Given some of the abuse that has been hurled at me in response to my original post, Richard’s response and subsequent comments, readers may like to see my post for Saturday 26 April, which I thinks throws new light on the use of the parable of the sower:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2008/04/sowing-seeds-of-change-new-hope-for-new.html

Admin: Please don’t post identical comments in the same thread. We heard you the first time. It doesn’t help. You’ve been very quick to accuse me of censorship in the past, though I have never prevented you from commenting or removed anything you’ve written. I’m letting this one go, but I am becoming impatient.
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Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 8:36 pm

Thanks Pam,

Who has ever advocated:

the theologically uncritical adoption of secular business techniques by the church, as if it were Ecclesia Plc. run by CEOs with their marketing-speak about organisational performance, motivation, targets, and measureable success.

Misrepresetation?

30

PamBG 04.25.08 at 8:45 pm

Who has ever advocated:

the theologically uncritical adoption of secular business techniques by the church, as if it were Ecclesia Plc. run by CEOs with their marketing-speak about organisational performance, motivation, targets, and measureable success.

Misrepresetation?

This feels like another attempt to draw ‘them and us’ lines and as if I have to choose. The friend of my enemy is my enemy sort of thing. I do not like this tactic nor do I feel comfortable with it.

I have understood you as advocating the adoption of secular business techniques by the church. Are you not doing that?

I have heard you advocating performance targets and the measurement of success. Are you not doing that?

Seriously. I have heard these things and I don’t see how they are a misrepresentation.

31

James 04.25.08 at 8:58 pm

A storm in a teacup

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Kim 04.25.08 at 9:14 pm

David (MP), you pontificate at your own blog, and that’s your business, but you come over to Connexions with your arrogance, boastfulness, and snide and grumpy tone, refuse to answer substantive criticism and instead cry, “Abuse! Abuse!” It won’t wash. Everybody can see what’s going on - except, evidently, you. It’s embarrassing. But be in no doubt - Connexions is too fine and respected a blog - and Richard too fine and respected a man and minister - to succumb to your attempts at sabotage.

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PamBG 04.25.08 at 9:15 pm

Off to hospital on a visit. Inefficiently.

Prayers appreciated.

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DH 04.25.08 at 9:22 pm

Well, I don’t want to be looked at as “opening pandora’s box”, but I do believe that marketing techniques under the power of the Holy spirit CAN be used and that there is nothing wrong with that and I believe we CAN under the Holy spirit share the Gospel with the desire for people to receive Christ aka “Born Again/conversion”. However, I believe we need to do these things under the power of the Holy Spirit and under obedience to Christ and His Word when doing these things.

So in conclusion, I believe there is a “middle ground” between MP vs. Richard,Pam, etc. I also enjoyed MP’s post on the “sowing of seeds”. I think as well there is middle ground on that as well.

So in further conclusion, I believe BOTH are correct on this one. However, Pam should not reject outright MP nor MP reject outright Pam on this one for under the Holy Spirit one can do all of these things and they don’t go against Scripture on Evangelism. However, one should do all they can to “share the Gospel” which the goal should be for people to receive for conversion of ones soul for Salvation. The fact remains there are people who are “saved” and others who “aren’t”. We should help people to “receive Salvation” and we shouldn’t fail to present this for peoples downfall by not knowing how one enters the Kingdom. Entering the Kingdom is by our Faith in Christ alone.

Maybe I opened pandora’s box on this one. I just believe there can be more agreement middle ground between the two sides. :)

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Methodist Preacher 04.25.08 at 9:45 pm

“I believe we need to do these things under the power of the Holy Spirit and under obedience to Christ and His Word when doing these things”

Amen

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Son of the Prophet 04.25.08 at 9:53 pm

Richard,

Many thanks for your reply to what I said and let me just address your point. I don’t think I was trying to say that “management techniques” were more important than working and moving in the love of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. I was however saying that they can and should play an important part.

A ministry in any area of any sort can only be effective if, and I stress this is only my humble opinion, there is a solid grounding on which to build that ministry. In todays society we have to accept that money makes the world go round. Should it,?No! I totally agree but, it does and as Christians we have to find a way to enable ourselves to function in the commercial world that surrounds us in order to enable us to preach Gods word. Should the power of the Holy Spirit ever not be the driving force behind these move? No, of course not under any circumstances but they are none the less considerations we must face.

I agree that trying to quantify a lot of “the work” that ministers and other people do is a pointless task. Ministers in particular serve every need of the communities they work in and the “results” of their labors are almost always unquantifiable. However, how effective can a church be if there are no funds to support this work? How effective can a minister be if they can’t effectivley organise their time and priorities? Increasingly Ministers are called upon to do more and more and as Pam has said I’m sure at least a 60 hour week is not abnormal. I’m sure ministers can often feel that there are not enough hours in the day sometimes and to me this is where the “management techniques” can and should come to the rescue.

A ministry that is supported by a strong framework that operates like clockwork is a ministry that can devote more time to being exactly that, a ministry, as opposed to simply someone administrating for 90% of their time and actually getting down to the most important task they face, spreading God’s love.

It seems to me that after reading the long discourse on this subject people are taking the preconceived ideas they have about the views of others and applying them in this situation to formulate the response they think they will hear or to “misinterpret” the response that is actually given.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong side in this argument. As I have said I think both sides are actually right and its a working partnership of both ideas that is needed.

My worry however is that all too often this kind of debate leads to further segregation of people and inhibits any of us moving on. It seems to me that in his latest post MP has actually almost agreed with Richard in that there are times to “sow” and times to “harvest” which Richard didn’t seem to deny and actually agreed with. The problem though is that because there is an animosity (in my perception anyway) what he has said has been brushed under the carpet to react to the way he has said it.

At the end of the day I think we need to remember that it is only through discourse and compromise that we can move forward in so many situations. Does this mean we should stop fighting for what we think is right? not at all, but maybe we should keep the gloves on to stop any one getting hurt and the bumps to our own heads blurring our focus.

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fatprophet 04.25.08 at 10:28 pm

I have followed this discussion with great interest and I am a little wary about commenting in case I become ‘Guilty by association’ with either of the main protagonists.
It seems to me that there is a view on both sides that has been formulated about each other and other commenter’s then unfortunately are badged as falling into a particular camp. If it is a minister commenting then they must automatically be on Richard’s side and if it is a lay person they must automatically be on MP’s side, this of course is not the case. The reality I believe is that there is much to be said for standing back a moment and looking at what is being said calmly and actually spending some time thinking about what is being said. It is all too easy to rush in and comment on something we read without thinking - I tend to read something through two or three times and think about what it says before making a comment in the hope that what I say is sensible and does not cause any offence or misunderstanding, although in reality this can happen however hard we try.
I have recently completed a two year management development course which was led by a management consultant who got up many people’s noses because of his attitude and I think for many of the people in the groups they felt they had not actually benefited from it. At the beginning of the course we had done an exercise to do with our views and attitudes to a range of topics and when we did this again at the end of the course many of us were amazed by how much we had learned and how much our views had changed - throughout the course the consultant had been saying he was looking for a change of 1% and for many of us there had been a change of 5 or 6%.
I am tempted to put a question to readers that I came across the other day - ‘what is the difference between 211 degrees and 212 degrees?’ Now I know many of you may be saying one degree and that would be right but the significant thing is water doesn’t boil at 211 degrees but does at 212.
I know that it would seem MP wants to do something extremely radical - perhaps even getting rid of ministers and replacing them with managers but the facts are that 1 degree or 1% can make a big difference - one of the problems as I see it and this is based on our experience on this management course is that we are reluctant to change even that 1% and we often think we are the only ones who know anything about the specific topic.
My late mother always used to tell me I was never too old to learn and you know as I have grown older I have realised that like many of the things she said this was an extremely sensible comment.

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Dave Warnock 04.25.08 at 10:42 pm

SOP,

I have let a lot go by but really:

“In todays society we have to accept that money makes the world go round.”

a) Bad Science

b) Bad Economics

but most importantly

c) Bad Theology

I deny entirely that money makes the world go round. And I challenge Christians to stand against such bad theology (I also encourage Christians to stand against bad science and bad economics too).

39

Son of the Prophet 04.25.08 at 11:00 pm

Dave

To say that we are not living in the midst of a society where possessions and financial gain are not the driving force in most people lives is to me a little blinkered. I can agree that it is bad theology and I agree that as Christians we shouldn’t adhere to this policy but at the end of the day its not us we are trying to bring “back into the fold”.

If we are to be a relevant and life changing religion we have to accept the realities of the world we live in. There are two wars dominating the headlines at the moment that ultimately boil down to money be it in Oil or any other commodity. To bring up the subject that has been raised around the local Blogosphere recently of the lost generation and the lack of provision, or need for provision for HE students we have to accept that working on a Sunday earns financial benefits. I recently attended a local church where 3 out of the 4 testimonials I heard about the Church from people were to do with receiving financial relief and one person point blank said this was why they had continued to attend this church.

As Christians we know the infinite wealth that comes from our faith, and from God, the problem is that those we are trying to spread the news to don’t. To not accept the sociological influences people around us face and to not attempt to make our teaching relevant to these influences seems to me as though we are missing the point. It is easy to say that this is bad science, economics and theology but in a destitute area with a massive influx of asylum seekers my church HAS to accept that money will be a driving force in many of the lives of those that surround us and to brush over this will not help us bring those people into church. Yes we can show them that this should not be the case but we have to go out and meet people on their level, in their lives and be relevant to them as we do it.

40

Bene D 04.26.08 at 6:39 am

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

David.

Linking back to yourself twice?
What a transparent ‘marketing’ technique.

Back before you came online and when blogs were new, getting what is called an ‘Instalaunch’ was a big deal to bloggers attempting to get traffic and a bit of notice.

Big enough ‘Instalaunch’ entered the lexicon of online words.
It referred to a blog by a fellow named Glen Reynolds of Instapundit and if you could get his attention and score a link, you got traffic. A spike in hits.

Some of the begging and techniques to obtain an ‘Instalaunch’ were creative, some just pathetic.

Now as online traffic has multiplied, matured and diversified and as bloggers committed to their craft will tell you, adding a link twice is seen for what it is.

If it’s any consolation I clicked over because I feel sorry for you, even though I think you’re no longer a newbie. Do hope you got your ’spike hit’ rush.

41

Dave Warnock 04.26.08 at 8:12 am

SOP,

We are probably not so far apart. I am not being blinkered about what drives people (although I would argue there are deeper concerns than drive them than money/possessions - security, acceptance,self esteem).

But I do want to stress that as Christians this is not our world view. We have been transformed, we have a different driver in charge, we are on a different track. For us the things that make the world go round will be:

- God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, justice, peace

In one very real sense our faith journey, the religion around our discipleship must be relevant to the Kingdom of God not to this world.

For if we are not salt and light then who will see our Lord? If we approach wars without being concerned for all people, without loving our enemies, without seeking justice and acting with mercy who will see kingdom values?

I could go on but I seriously want to challenge the idea that in order to connect with people we need to accept the culture that is harming them so much. The views prevalent in society such as “money is all that matters” and “binge until you die, for there is nothing to live for” will not be helped by us joining in but by us pointing to a saviour who offers a different life.

Yes I agree people need help and the Church should be well aware of that. That is one reason why we provide a full meal at our “fresh expression”, they know we will pay for people to have some gas or electricity at home, that we will help them with social services, doctors etc.

We also seek to change the society which treats people like dirt (whether they be single parents, asylum seekers, homeless, drug addicts, child abusers, …) in seeking change we are pointing to a new reality where our worth is seen in the eyes of God rather than our bank manager.

42

tortoise 04.26.08 at 8:31 am

I seriously want to challenge the idea that in order to connect with people we need to accept the culture that is harming them so much.

I agree. By no means should we be blinkered to realities in society, or to the very real monetary needs and concerns of folk. But there’s a big difference between acknowledging a money-driven culture, and accepting it.

43

James 04.26.08 at 9:40 am

“We also seek to change the society which treats people like dirt (whether they be single parents, asylum seekers, homeless, drug addicts, child abusers, …)”

I think the church wastes a lot of time seeking change and often gets above its purpose in the sense that they are not actually there for the oppressed people in our society.

As for the original post - I agree that all the time Jesus is quite inefficient in his ministry but its not as if he had the internet or mobile phones or something. It was the nature of the first century (although its fair to say that Paul was pretty efficient in his evangelism). To say we need to be inefficient because Jesus was, I’m afraid, seems rather random and irrational.

44

PamBG 04.26.08 at 10:16 am

if it is a lay person they must automatically be on MP’s side,

FWIW, I don’t think ‘all lay people’ here are on the ’same side’. This drawing of the church into ‘ministry battling against the laity’ is one of the major on-going themes that I object to in David’s positing.

I really do think that most people want the best most of the time;

I really do believe that most disagreements are because individuals are in search of ‘the good’ (I even think that about David H, believe it or not, even as I think his language is divisive, destructive and unhelpful.

I really do believe that we all come with different opinions, lay and ordained people, and that having one label doesn’t mean that a person automatically has X opinion.

I know that it would seem MP wants to do something extremely radical - perhaps even getting rid of ministers and replacing them with managers but the facts are that 1 degree or 1% can make a big difference - one of the problems as I see it and this is based on our experience on this management course is that we are reluctant to change even that 1% and we often think we are the only ones who know anything about the specific topic.

I take your point at the end of this phrase. Not sure what you mean by the first part of the phrase. You seem to be suggesting that the use of a ‘radical’ picture is necessary because going for a 50% change might result in the 1% change?

My answer to this is the same as it has been in the past:

1) David isn’t giving an kind of a clear vision of what he wants the church to be. I have a clear vision of the processes he wants to use to get to wherever he is going - get rid of ministers, instill managers, have the church look and act a lot more like the world, knock on doors. I have no idea what the church is to look like when we’re through acting out all those change processes - other than that he thinks there will be more young bums on pews.

2) One does not ‘win friends and influence people’ by attacking them first. If one attacks an entire group of people as incompetent jobs-worths - and one gives every appearance of looking for every and any opportunity to do so - then one shouldn’t be surprised if individuals within that group are wary. If I made as many negative posts over a number of months about middle-aged white men, I expect that a lot of middle-aged white men would be wary of working with or listening to me. (This is an illustration only; I have nothing against middle-aged white men.)

45

Dave Warnock 04.26.08 at 10:19 am

James,

It is hard to see how we could disagree more. Every time we proclaim Jesus is Lord we are seeking to change society. We are declaring a different way of being. As we live that out alongside all people how can we not be seeking to change the society that has hurt them, has valued them less than God does?

As for the idea that the internet and mobile phones equal efficiency - how quaint.

46

Son of the Prophet 04.26.08 at 11:18 am

Dave
Many thanks for your comments, unless I missed the point I thought we were actually agreeing. I totally agree that the things you listed there are the most important things to try and achieve and show to others. I also agree that we should not be ruled by the rules of society in our work. I think I said both of these things in my original reply. I also said that we need to work with people to change their views but we have to accept that they will have these views when we find them and work to change them. The last thing I want is to become part of this society but we have to acknowledge it exists, that it is a problem, and find ways to relate to the people who experience it before we can try to instigate change in their lives.

I think we are actually probably saying the same thing in all honesty and yet again maybe it is the wonderful ability of the written word on a blog (or my inability to write \”efficiently!\” on one) to \”skew\” your meaning that leads to our seeming to not be!

SOP

47

Dave Warnock 04.26.08 at 11:52 am

So SOP,

If we agree on this then (to try to get slightly back on track) if we dance to a different tune to the world (which we agree on) then attempting to use the ways of this world (managerial efficiency) to build a kingdom based world is the wrong way to go about things.

48

Son of the Prophet 04.26.08 at 12:00 pm

Dave

I agree that we can’t use managerial efficiency to bring the love of God to people and I have maintained this all along. What I am saying is that we can use it to deal with the “ways of the world” that have to be dealt with such as money, bills, travelling, reports etc.. and this will give us more time and energy to focus on bringing the love of God to this world. There are two separate issue here as I said at the beginning, being efficient wont work when we have to deal with people and our faith but why shouldn’t we utilise it to deal with the practical constraints the world puts on us? I don’t think we can build a kingdom on managerial efficiency but why shouldn’t it help us to but some of the building blocks in place a little bit quicker?

49

Dave Warnock 04.26.08 at 12:15 pm

SOP,

I support this, if and only if.

a) The theology comes first and foremost

b) ALL aspects of managerial efficiency must subjected to full theological scrutiny before being adopted. Only when transformed themselves by the gospel should they be adopted by the Church. By this I mean we need to look at them to be sure that in every way we reflect kingdom values and attitudes.

Sadly those who campaign for willy nilly adoption of the latest management craze and for full adoption of marketing and PR techniques often appear to do neither a nor b.

50

Son of the Prophet 04.26.08 at 12:24 pm

Dave
could not agree more on a, b and your comment about how rarely they are considered. Many thanks for a very informative discussion and to Richard for the post.

Sop

51

dh 04.26.08 at 6:25 pm

Again, I believe BOTh are correct. God can use anything He wants and asks us by His Holy spirit to do the same. God can tell a pastor to use money for God’s Kingdom to share the Gospel, God can tell a pstor to have “managerial efficiency’ in his ministry, God can tell pastors to do things that in the nature are “not efficient”, etc. I don’t see “managerial efficiency” as “going against God’s Kingdom” and I don’t see a church raising money to do the work of ministry in and of itself against God’s Kingdom. The most important thing is how we use he resources God has given us. This concept is relayed all of Scripture. To reject it outright like Dave has is wrong. At the same time, MP and other need to understand that God can tell us to do things that are “inefficient in the natural” to reject this outright is wrong. However, as this conversation grows it seems I agree more with MP than I originally thought. At the same time, Dave made some wonderful comments that I appreciate like this one: “Every time we proclaim Jesus is Lord we are seeking to change society. We are declaring a different way of being. As we live that out alongside all people how can we not be seeking to change the society that has hurt them, has valued them less than God does?” I will add that we must help people to accept the correct nature of God with regard to ones Faith and one must truly understand the proper nature of Christ as one in the same with the Trinity, etc., etc.

52

Beth 04.27.08 at 1:32 am

James, are you saying that, if Jesus’ ministry were happening today, he would eschew his interaction with individuals and replace it with a Facebook profile and some viral marketing? He would heal the sick via email attachment? Reminds me of that line in Jesus Christ Superstar - “If you’d come today you would have reached a whole nation - Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass-communication”… and I don’t think Tim Rice was being serious when he wrote that!

And what’s this about the Church not being there for the oppressed? I can’t even begin to imagine where you get that idea or how you support it. If you can persuade me that the Church’s mission (and indeed the mission of every Christian) does not include supporting and advocating for the oppressed, I will renounce my faith.

53

James 04.27.08 at 2:35 pm

Actually I can see how you have misunderstood my comment Beth and Warnock. I’ll explain it thoroughly this time so you’re sure to understand.

The church can be there for the oppressed in two ways:
1) By actually physically helping them
2) By seeking greater change to society etc…

My point was that a lot of the time the Church is too busy doing doing 2 to actually do 1. That is they are seeking change for the oppressed ‘in higher circles’ but consider themselves above the reality of phyically giving them money/food/support etc… I personally think that 1 should be the churches priority and 2 should be a more secondary thing.

I know many local preachers who will preach about helping the oppressed in the pulpits and so on but then fob off the homeless that come to their churches for money. They talk about Jesus helping the poor but then sneer and ignore the big issue sellers they walk past. — This portion has been removed by Richard –

If you want I can reiterate my point but by using small words so that you are sure to understand.

Also Dave - are you seriously saying that life was more efficient without mobile phones and the internet.

This comment has been edited by the blog admin to remove a gratuitously offensive comment. Arguments and ideas are fair game. People are not.
54

Paul Martin 04.27.08 at 3:00 pm

James, I take great exception to the arrogant way in which you make suppositions concerning Beth and Dave Warnock - one of whom I have met but not the other. You have no grounds for your comment.

You have brought debate to a real low!

55

Richard 04.27.08 at 3:05 pm

James, Paul beat me to this, but your comment is gratuitously offensive and I’m removing it. Unless you know Beth and Dave personally, you can’t possibly have any grounds for making that sort of remark.

I think an apology is called for.

56

Beth 04.27.08 at 4:54 pm

I didn’t get to read the comment - thanks for the quick-fire support, Richard. Is there any chance I can find out what was said?

James, words of one syllable are unnecessary, just less ambiguous sentence structure!

57

Richard 04.27.08 at 7:56 pm

I’ve a problem now, Beth. I removed the comment ’cause I thought it would offend you. I don’t want to do that.

58

James 04.27.08 at 10:00 pm

Fair enough I retact, in part, my earlier comment. Although its worth nothing now I’d just like to say that I was attacking the ‘phoneyness’ of the previous comments which I think lacked sincerity.

Lets face it - the church does very little to help the oppressed. In actuality Christians just give the appearance of helping them but just want to send them off on their way. Saying things like “every time we proclaim Jesus is Lord we are seeking to change society” is pure rhetoric. It means nothing.

59

Dave Warnock 04.27.08 at 11:13 pm

James,

I had not realised that you took exception to my comment “every time we proclaim Jesus is Lord we are seeking to change society” that indeed you feel it “is pure rhetoric. It means nothing.” So I want to strengthen it.

Personally, along with the Church through the centuries I think there are few more revolutionary things to say.

Proclaiming Jesus is Lord, stating our allegiance to God changes everything about life, the universe and everything. It is through accepting and proclaiming Jesus as Lord that we are led to seeking to feed the hungry, working for justice, care for the homeless/lonely/bereaved/…, loving our neighbours (and our enemies).

Maybe you would prefer the Church to announce “Hey folks, don’t worry about this Jesus guy, just go and buy a big issue.” (which incidentally displays huge ignorance of the plight of people who are homeless and the economics of the big issue itself).

One of my Churches will be travelling down to London another 2 times this year (we have to leave Raunds at about 3:30am) to cook breakfast at the Whitechapel Mission for people who are homeless (we struggle to fit all we collect in our cars so maybe you can carry some stuff for us too) . If you want to see Christians caring for the homeless then come and see this Methodist Mission that is open 365 days a year (well 366 this year) with no government funding. One supported so thoroughly by Churches then when we were there in April the next Saturday with no Church volunteers booked was the end of November.

Come along to Raunds Methodist Church (bring your hat to eat) any Thursday afternoon to see one aspect of the care a small church delivers in its community.

Anyway despite all the direct action this Church does locally (and abroad through direct sending or people and resources as well as through bigger agencies), I still maintain that we do not do enough to support the mission of God in changing society in general. Due to that there are still slaves in the UK, we still go to war, we still consume more than our share of resources, we still have children in this country who are hungry, who are abused, who do not get the education they deserve, and so many other issues that it beggars belief (seems like the donkeys do ok though). All these need change and Christians need to be active in supporting what God is already doing - just as those who have gone before were (Wilberforce and Wesley as two examples).

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Dave Warnock 04.27.08 at 11:49 pm

James,

“Also Dave - are you seriously saying that life was more efficient without mobile phones and the internet.”

In the context of ministry I’ll put my bets on Jesus with no mobile phone and no internet over you with both any day.

In ministry terms, yes I’ll challenge the efficiency gains of mobile phones and the internet. Do they mean we pray more? Do we spend more time caring for people? Do they increase the depth of our encounters with people? Are we more in tune with the Misio Dei? I suspect all 4 answers are no. I therefore rest my case. In terms of ministry they have had a negative effect for all their fun, perceived efficiency and buzz.

61

James 04.28.08 at 4:49 pm

Fair enough - you’ve backed yourself up and it seems what you said wasn’t empty. Anyway there’s literally no point in taking this debate further as the only reason we disagreed was because of a misunderstanding anyway.

62

Beth 04.29.08 at 12:48 am

See your point, Richard - fair enough. I’m rarely offended by personal attacks, though, particularly from people who’ve never met me :)

James, you’re right to question my sincerity. Not that I don’t sincerely believe what I said about the role of the Church and of Christians, but that I’m sometimes lazy about practising it. I do my best, most of the time. I hope that makes me just human, rather than a hypocrite, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

Getting back to the other issue in my comment, which you didn’t really address - do you think that Jesus would use tools of mass communication to spread his Gospel, rather than the more hands-on, individual approach he really took? Don’t you think he could have been born into an age of technological efficiency if that had been his will? Rather than considering the conditions of Christ’s birth an historical accident, why not think about the fact that everything is under his control, and that therefore he must have had a reason for the way he did things? If he was “inefficient”, then he was so by choice.

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