DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Further Up and Further In

Written by: on June 6, 2019

I appreciated this book choice and listening in to other theologians and scholars discuss Dr. Martyn Percy’s work. There was much to glean from it and I came away from it with a greater appreciation for the history and importance of God’s work in and through the Anglican Communion. I am especially indebted for the language and imagery of the via media and the long, faithful history of church leaders following the middle way.

Right before I almost converted to Anglicanism sitting at the coffeeshop, I was pulled into the gold of this book for my personal research. Percy’s writings on “Growth and Management in the Church of England”[1]has given me a great deal to contemplate. Percy gives a thoughtful critique of the Church’s tendency to over-emphasize productivity and numerical growth. He insists much is at stake if we do not rectify this and hold nothing as more important than faithfully following Jesus. Church growth strategy has its place, to be sure, and it is behind loving God.

We need more emphasis on wisdom and depth, and less dependency on orientating our life (and happiness?) by pursuing bigger and better numbers. Only when we are free, can we begin to reclaim our identity as an institution that radically speaks of and embodies God—rather than being consumed by shallower mission and management targets.[2]

I was surprised and pleased to read his words calling Christians to more depth with God. It made me reflect on my journey and invitations from God over the years to come “further up and further in” as C.S. Lewis invites in The Last Battle. And it reminded me of Richard Foster’s opening line of The Celebrations of the Disciplines that has worked on me for some time:

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people but for deep people.[3]

How encouraging. Because while my pride wishes for greater intelligence and giftedness, what I know for sure I can effect and influence is how deep I am. I can open myself up to God more and more and allow Him to grow me.

I know this and yet am still tempted to shortcut my spiritual growth. Isn’t there a hack for ‘deep’? I like shortcuts and ‘life hacks’. I never whisk eggs in a bowl before scrambling them in the skillet. Why would I want to wash another dish? And sometimes I use Amazon Prime with such frequency and for such meager purchases that I’m sure they will close my account for abusing it. I could go on and on. And yet I keep finding there are some things in life that cannot be microwaved; there are things that are not convenient.

We must push against the pull of superficiality. Christians ought to be more obsessed with God than Church. This is a careful distinction and I am fumbling around with what I mean at this point. But attending to it may help spiritual leaders. While Church and God are closely aligned and this may sound more like splitting hairs, it is important to distinguish between them, even as a nuance. It is important if you are a church leader especially.

I guess my big takeaway is that I would like to make a small contribution to my corner of the world on righting the scales from what Percy says is out of balance – church leadership being over-managed and theologically under-led.[4]

 


[1] Martyn Percy, “Growth and Management in the Church of England”, Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy, Edited by Ian S. Markham and Joshue Daniel. (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018), Kindle, loc 6457-6706.

[2]Ibid., loc 6664.

[3]Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth(San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018), 1.

[4]Martyn Percy, “Growth and Management in the Church of England”, Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy, Edited by Ian S. Markham and Joshue Daniel. (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018), Kindle, loc 6541.

About the Author

Andrea Lathrop

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, mom and student. I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and I have been an executive pastor for the last 8+ years. I drink more coffee than I probably should every day.

7 responses to “Further Up and Further In”

  1. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Yes, yes, just yes! Not a very academic response, but extremely heartfelt. Andrea, my personal concern is a nation of superficial Christians who will not know how to stand and stand together when things get really difficult. As I hear our nation cry about being “persecuted” because we are being marginalized I see my concerns being realized. Then I sit with global leaders whose pastors are being tortured and killed because of their faith and their church buildings burned down. That’s persecution.

    Keep modeling it and keep speaking to it in your sphere of influence. The American church needs this message.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Thank you for your encouragement, Tammy. I think about these things often and am challenged by what the Majority World faces daily. I do not pretend to understand why my reality is so decidedly different but I do ask God to show me how I can stand with them and how to live more faithfully with Him and them in mind.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    WOW. You said a mouthful in this post and I so agree with it! You wrote, “We must push against the pull of superficiality. Christians ought to be more obsessed with God than Church.” In many circles Church has become production/business. God is asked to join the production rather than the other way around. I can see how this speaks to your research on burnout and can’t wait to see in the end result.

  3. mm Sean Dean says:

    I’m pretty sure “further up and further in” shows up in “The Great Divorce” as well.

    The striving for a shortcut to hard things is hardwired into our culture I think. I will likely never get over it, but I’m hoping that we can instill it into our children – a task I feel like I’m failing at the moment, but this is a marathon not a sprint. Perhaps we can be the generation that helps the next generation find contentment in the hard-deep things of God.

  4. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Andrea,
    I am so glad you found Percy’s writings on “Growth and Management in the Church of England” so stimulating. Sounds like it really sits within the focus of your research. How will you utilize Percy as one of your sources. Thanks again and many blessings on your research, H

  5. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    So do deep people make good church leaders these days? If I’m honest, the people I know who have a depth and richness to their faith most often place themselves around the edges in church contexts. Something about depth seems to also demand a style of humility that keeps you from telling people how to live—a hallmark of most large church leaders. If I’m being generous, perhaps it is that depth isn’t stage worthy and that even the key leaders who do have depth don’t preach out of it. Is depth so personal that it is the stuff only revealed in intimate conversations with a handful of disciples while storytelling and parables becomes the offering to the masses? Can we gain depth without suffering? Can I search for greater depth without alienating those nearest me? Can we equate depth with the red pill of a transformed perspective, or is it better akin to a 50 year long married couple?

  6. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Writing this from my phone sorry. One of my favourite spiritual writers, Robert Wicks, claims that true holiness is tangible ordinariness. The more ordinary we become, the closer we are to God. He’s really reflecting on power and it’s use in normal life. If we are truly at ease with ourselves before God we have nothing to gain from others – there is no game playing. Consequently our relationships are clean. It also means people hold no power over us because we are not filled with fear. I wonder if that’s what going deep is really about; we simplify rather than complicate. Being an Anglican in a tradition that stretches back centuries and really has its roots in the Roman Catholic Church. Means we have more rules and ecclesiastical canons than any other denomination. Yet the call of priestly spiritual formation is to simplicity not complexity. Ken speaks of people being more spiritually sorted in the edges of the church. However, in most cases they seem more together because they hang around with people they like and who are like them. But I love the weirdness at the core of Christian community because it’s in that bonkers place where the over-educated, socially fragile and the morally challenged have to get on with each other because of Jesus. And it only happens when all those people drop their power games and become ordinary before God – it’s then that get a glimpse of holiness.

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