Friday, September 24, 2004

Structuring for Growth

I've been giving some thought recently to how the church could structure differently for growth. Let's just assume for a moment that the Adventist church won't actually reallocate tithe in a way that will cause more pastors to be in the field. Can we still see some restructuring that will cause more growth? Allow me a little illustration:

Let's say that a hotdog company in New York City sells its hotdogs by distributing manned hotdog carts in different parts of the city. And let's say that we consistently find that carts in certain parts of the city are unprofitable, while those in other parts of the city are making a killing. If the hotdog company wants to sell more hotdogs, it would make sense to relocate the unprofitable hotdog carts to parts of the city where the hotdogs will sell. There is a nominal cost to redistribute the carts to where they will actually sell hotdogs. And the profits will outstrip the costs in no time.

But what about those three customers who used to come and buy hotdogs from the unprofitable cart once a week? Is it the job of the hotdog company to "not cause any waves"? To do it the way we've always done it? Or is it the job of the hotdog company to structure to sell as many hotdogs as possible before Jesus comes?

Let's say that a denomination wins people to Christ by distributing pastors to churches in different parts of the conference territory. And let's say that we consistently find that single-pastor churches in small towns aren't growing, while those in cities are seeing steady growth. If the conference wants to bring more people to Christ, it would make sense to relocate the pastors to work in places where churches are growing. There is a nominal cost to redistribute the pastors where they will actually grow their churches. And the tithe that is generated will outstrip the costs in no time.

But what about those twelve church members who used to come to church once a week and stare at each other? Is it the job of the conference to "not cause any waves"? To do it the way we've always done it? Or is it the job of the conference to structure to win as many people as possible before Jesus comes?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Little Harsh?

In a recent post on The Philosophy Department, another Adventist blog, Keith Goodman states that Ron Gladden wrote the following thoughts.

Communism is based on four tenants [sic]: (a) central planning & control; (b) central holding of property; (c) redistribution of wealth; (d) persecution of dissidents. How does it work?

Consider communist China vs. Taiwan. For the year 2002, China had a GNP of $840 per person; Taiwan’s was $13,450. China has far more natural resources and should be a powerful economic force in the world, but Taiwan has freedom and a market economy. Some people in communist countries prefer that every aspect of their lives is controlled by someone ‘higher,’ but the vast majority long to be responsible for their own future and destiny even if that future is risk-ridden. Another comparison is North Korea with a GNP of $573 vs. South Korea with a GNP of $8,910. 

Churches in North America today can be placed into three categories: (a) independent; (b) part of a grandparental denomination; (c) part of a parental denomination. Identify the system under which a local church operates, and you can observe a pattern of evangelistic success or lack thereof. 

Parental denominations operate on the same four tenants [sic] as communism. Their churches are small and their evangelist success is minimal. Other denominations are more “grandparental” which means that they trust the local church leaders to make wise decisions and to use their resources wisely to fulfill the mission. Independent churches are the ones to which church leaders flock to learn how to reach their communities for Christ. 

One of the issues that we never discuss in the church is the system under which we operate. Until we leave Cuba and North Korea behind, we will continue to struggle. The world has moved toward more openess and autonomy; the church must do the same.

While I agree with Ron's content in this matter, I believe his rhetoric is a bit harsh. For many Americans, COMMUNISM is a loaded term - loaded with fear and hatred and remnants of the cold war. And while Ron's points about control and dissent and property need to be heard, many people will not hear them when Ron uses this rhetoric. They will simply feel that Ron is attacking the church.

I don't believe Ron is attacking the church. I believe he wants to get control and structure issues out in the open. But I think he needs to be careful, lest he offend the very people he needs to persuade.