Thursday, February 18, 2010

Efficient or Effective

There is much ado about the BRTFFGHIJKLMOP (ah, whatever, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Restructuring...) and plans to restructure our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Given the fact that we have passed resolutions on structure that later proved unconstitutional or unworkable, we have proposed restructuring which later the denomination rejected in Convention, leaving us with a hodgepodge of articles and by-laws that probably need a lot of work. There is no denying this.

But this is not the only reason for the brouhaha. In fact, much is made over the fact that our structure is actually inhibiting our growth, restricting the mission, and getting in the way of a more efficient church. There is a mouthful -- a more efficient church. Now if God had wanted the work of the Kingdom to be efficient, He would have figured out a better way than to work through ordinary flesh and blood people like you and me. But God has less concern than with efficiency than we do. God's concern is more about faithfulness than efficiency -- or He would have created a more efficient structure than the Church and a more efficient means than people sharing the Gospel in word and action.

I have to admit efficiency is not one of the things I look for in a church body. An efficient church body would jump on every wind of change to ride the wave of trend and fad, hoping to be one step ahead of the people. An efficient church body would do without the messiness of people and boards and commissions and run it with the top down hierarchical structure of a business. An efficient church body would hold executives accountable with growth targets that must be met or the consequence is termination. An efficient church body would sacrifice all for the all important goal of growth -- even an willingness to change the products and change the very identity of the organization, if necessary. An efficient church body would ditch theory (make that theology) in favor of practical, technological, and functional expertise.

God has purposefully chosen not efficiency but faithfulness as the standard for the work of His kingdom and faithfulness is less than efficient but not ineffective. God has given to His church the means of grace through which He does His bidding and accomplishes His purpose. The Word and Sacraments do what they claim, deliver what they promise, are what they say. They do not return to Him empty handed but good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over. If His Church will faithfully speak this Word and administer these Sacraments, God will grow His Church and build His kingdom. It may not be efficient but it is effective -- effective because God is the One who makes it work.

As a church body we tend to be focused on the short term -- what works and what works fast! We think that God wants us to be results oriented. The truth is that God is not results oriented -- at least in the way we are. God has always looked at His kingdom through the lens of the long haul. He laid out a plan of salvation before the foundation of the world and then did not rush to complete it. In the kairos of the vision only God can have, He unfolded His plan slowly, deliberately, passionately, effectively -- over generation and generation until at the right moment Christ was born.

What works and what works fast should be less our concern than what is faithful to the Gospel, faithful to Jesus Christ. All the restructuring in the world will not replace the faithfulness that God calls us to and that God expects from us. We may be able to fill the pews by trending ahead of the trend and capturing the curiosity and desire for entertainment in people... but we will not please the Lord. Now don't get me wrong -- I think we need some restructuring so that our structure and our polity reflect theology and not the latest ideas from the social scientists and business gurus. I just think that we are going at this for the wrong reasons and will judge its success by the wrong criteria...

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