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”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.
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.
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.
 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.
Ibid., loc 6664.
Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth(San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018), 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 6541.