Thursday, January 01, 2009

Interesting Quote

Last night I finished reading a book by Charles Van Engen, who is the Arthur F. Glasser Professor of Biblical Theology of Mission at Fuller Seminary's School of World Mission. Engen stated,

"To achieve our ends in our churches and mission organizations, we may have too easily used secular management principles whose bottom line was measurable production, not faith. We like results, we like to count our results, and we like to count what we can see. Thus, whether it be in church growth and evangelism or in relief and development, have we not tended to accept the scientific reduction of life to the material and visible, and then to justify our mission endeavors on the basis of visible results?"

Van Engen, Mission on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 221-222.

If I could make a generalization and compare most of our churches and religious organizations to ships at sea, it seems we have often been more interested in how smoothly the ship is running and how fast it is going than in the direction in which it is heading day by day and minute by minute. Thus, our leaders tend to be good administrators but not necessarily good theorists who can react well to changing conditions on the voyage. The captain of the Titanic knew what his final destination was supposed to be (New York City), but his crew did not react properly when an iceberg was unexpectedly in the way. The main concern seemed to be the comfort of the passengers and the speed of the voyage. If we are leaders, then we need to be leaders all the time, not just when we are designated as leaders at the beginning of the voyage.

Churches and religious organizations are not secular businesses. We cannot lead them as we would secular businesses. The spiritual welfare of each person in the group is important. We cannot look at them as expendable parts. Also, when we look at results, we must examine the genuineness of the results. Spiritual quality is more important than material quality. It is true that spiritual quality produces spiritual quantity in most cases, but we tend to be more concerned about quantity than quality. Are those who are baptized really Christians? Do those people who are baptized grow as they should? Do the churches that are planted last very long? Are they biblical churches with biblical leadership in place? Are the individuals and churches headed in the right direction? Are they equipped to react to changing spiritual circumstances? These are some questions we should be asking.