Many of us likely remember the Disney movie of the past generation called Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The premise was that through some scientific process, the kids or parents were reduced to a tiny replica of themselves. The movie then worked towards restoring things to the way they should be.
As I have been travelling this fall, I have seen evidence of the reality that we have shrunk various aspects of what it means to be a follower of Christ and part of His missionary community: the church. At times I have been frustrated and disappointed, both as I examine my own ability to be reductionistic and as I reflect on other ministries where I see happening it as well.
The best news, though, is that I think God is awakening His people to this reality. Therefore moving forward I am optimistic that the next chapters of the story are about us working out the map towards restoring the church to its intended state, and how we journey with Christ.
Here are a few of the ways I see this working out:
Shrinking the Gospel — much has been written about our reductionistic tendencies around the gospel. How encouraging it has been this week as I have been with 50 church leaders who have been adamant that any description of the gospel without reference to the reality of the Kingdom of God, come and available in Christ, falls short.
Shrinking Scripture — we tend to reduce the way we read and interpret Scripture as well. I was once again encouraged this week to listen to the reality that our task is not just to do our best to understand what it means, and then do it, but rather to see what God is doing in the text and then discern what that means for us.
Shrinking the Church — we have been moving away from our individualistic and privatized understanding of our faith in the past generation. But I wonder if there is room for more growth. I think the next move for the church is to understand and live into the reality that we are not just a community of missionaries, but rather a missionary community.
Shrinking Leadership — we have reduced leadership to a particular skill set that celebrates superstars. My reading in the New Testament recently has opened my eyes to the reality that Paul was not a wonderful systematic theologian, but he was a man who passionately led through praying for the people of God. And as I read about the way that Moses led, he led through discerning where God was leading the people of Israel, not a through a strategic plan that he came up with. Now, that is a different paradigm than how I have led for so much of ministry!
Shrinking the Neighbourhood – we have seen a focus back into neighbourhoods over the past decade. This has been fantastic. But we need to see greater growth in the understanding that God is at work in our neighbourhoods and it is our task to discern what He is doing, not just develop innovative programs to be more effective. God is indeed at work in the neighbourhood, not just in the church.
There are of course more ways that we have “shrunk” our faith, but there is a start to the conversation. The good news is that God is restoring His Bride.
In what ways do you see the church as having been reductionistic and yet God at work to restore us?