Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Efficiency in the church

"We take a task that we could simply pay someone to do, and we divide it into fifteen parts so that everyone has a job. Is it efficient? No. Not if all you care about is getting the job done. But in the church we should care less about getting the job done and more about the people doing it. We are not in the efficiency business. We are in the business of making disciples."
--Page 116 in This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver

I came across these words during my weekly restorative reading time yesterday. Thanks to Lillian Daniel for offering such wonderful insight. I remember, as a youth, serving on the National Presbyterian Youth Ministry Committee (yes, the name was too long) and wondering if the process of bringing together a youth and adult from every Synod in our denomination for an annual meeting for four days was the most efficient/helpful/productive way of "doing youth ministry" for the PCUSA. I've had similar thoughts while sitting in planning team meetings for the Montreat Youth Conferences. Over time, I've come to understand that efficiency wasn't the only priority. The leaders of those groups also prioritized leadership training, spirit-led group process, hearing many voices, and bringing people together who might otherwise never meet, just to name a few.

In my current context as a pastor in a local parish, I sometimes wonder if we might be more efficient if we got a handful of like-minded, passionate, hard-working folks together and made all the decisions. We might be, but we would miss out on the voices of those with whom we disagree or who simply has the church-life-transforming idea bubbling up inside of them.

As I reflect on the biblical witness, it doesn't appear as if God always chose the most efficient people or methods:
  • Was building an ark and gather animals all that efficient?
  • Moses had a speech impediment
  • 40 years wandering in the wilderness. I mean, come on!
  • King David was kind of a runt and "ruddy faced"
  • On the heels of Lent and Good Friday, I wonder how "efficient" the passion narrative and cross of Jesus were.
So, maybe we can let go of efficiency the next time we walk into a church meeting and reflect more on making disciples.