Less is More, or TTATB3: Choosing Volume over Value

“This year, do it bigger and better, and do more of it.”

One of the most difficult aspects of re-entering Baptist world for Amy and me has been re-acquainting ourselves with this unspoken value that permeates baptist culture:  more of a good thing is always a great thing.  Because it is unspoken, it goes unchallenged.  But it is the whispering voice that drives the “We need a bigger choir / a cooler event / more money / more services / more mission trips” programming machine that causes volunteers and staff to spectacularly flame out on a regular basis.  It is death to any organization, and especially the church. 

It’s hard for this idea to get traction with most churchy people:  that there is a point at which more of a good thing turns it into a bad thing, and that most churches (and especially Baptist ones) have long ago crossed that point in their programming and are still going. 

And it’s hard for a very pragmatic reason:  measuring programming volume (say, the number of inside-the-church-building hours per church member) is easier than measuring value (the degree to which the church member is actually becoming like Christ, who probably wouldn’t go to church half as much as we do).  Volume feels good because it’s easier to generate and see than is value.  Pointing to attendance and membership stats when someone asks how things are going at church is an easy way to feel validated about what we’re doing.

It’s also hard for a more basic, primal reason:  most of us have been taught that it is noble to sacrifice oneself for the cause of the church (as opposed to the Kingdom), that the need is too great, that caring for oneself is selfish, that saying “no” to a request from the church is saying “no” to God.

It’s no wonder we’re so bad at developing whole, healthy, integrated disciples who inspire outsiders to worship our God.  No wonder there are so few Naomi’s among us.

Greg Groeschal at LifeChurch.tv (the splash page on this website is well worth the click) has a 4-part series on his blog about why their church doesn’t “Do It All.”  Check him out.

Don’t Do It All, part 1

Don’t Do it All, part 2

Don’t Do It All, part 3

Don’t Do It All, part 4

Also, Seth’s essay Small is the New Big elaborates on the idea in a more general business context, but he nails the point–the effectiveness of the organization is the point, not it’s size or the energy it spends.

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