Efficiency and Spirituality in the Church


Is inefficiency a spiritual problem? Or contrarily, is efficiency a sign of hastiness and impatience, hence a kind of spiritual deficiency?

The answer to the questions above depends on which culture you are coming from. We operate according to our respective culture or worldview.

Those who are raised in a modernist culture where efficiency is highly valued often think that ministry in church must be as efficient or even more efficient that works done “in the world.” Some experience God through their serving in church or when they “feel” that the church is progressing with a good momentum. Others are simply used to the way things are in the modern world. They like it fast and efficient. When these are not found in the church they become disgruntled.

The “modern” church has many other problems. John Drane famously outlined them in his book, “The McDonaldization of the Church.”

Very few of us are trained to think from another cultural perspective. Thus, we tend to judge according to our cultural preferences. To prefer efficiency is a cultural preference. Not all culture follows the modernist definition of good life – with efficiency being a part of it for the purpose of production. This is the residue of industrial revolution and modernity.

We should not judge the seemingly inefficiency of the church based on our modernist cultural preferences and habits. The concept of efficiency is relative and not absolute. In some settings, being efficient is not valued, while in another, highly regarded.

So, what is the value of efficiency? Should the church be efficient?

Efficiency concerns achieving a goal within a given time.

Any goal is bound by the factor of time. No goal can be achieved apart from having it set within a time frame. To read the bible is a goal. To read it one chapter a month is a goal set according to a time frame. According to the set goal, one chapter a year is inefficiency. Discarding efficiency is as good as discarding having any goal.

Some will argue that we should just let things “flow” and by prayers, they will “fall into places.” I think that’s fine as long as everyone in the group is agreeable and comfortable. In the church setting, the modernists will move on to other more modernist churches. In normal circumstances, in the context of Malaysian churches, this will be the middle-upper class. But there is a more serious problem.

Inefficiency may seem harmless. Yet it is often a kind of irresponsibility. A parent that fails to feed a child on time is inefficient. If this prolongs, the child’s life will be endangered. The character of the parent is now highly questionable.

There is a thin line between training the child to have patience and abusing him/her.

We must not based our spirituality on efficiency. Yet, we must be efficient. Our efficiency is not to be based on our uncritical, habitual cultural preferences. It is based on our identity as children of God aiming to be more Christ-like, with dependency on God, and grace to accept any inadequacy. So there should be gracious acceptance that things may not be as efficient as we have expected; yet, not to be discouraged as we continue to set goals and aim to achieve them efficiently. Leaders (or servants) are efficient because their goals are set for those they serve. Their efficiency is to provide timely help to those they lead.

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Consumerist Church vs Missional Church


Some time ago I shared an infograph on my instagram and received some positive responses. I feel that I might as well outline my other concerns with the church today. Yes we are in a consumerist culture and this needs to be accepted. No amount of attacks towards consumerism is going to yield more disciples. Worse, most of our approaches of merely condemning the present cultures only distance the church from the ‘normal’ people around us.

Accepting the reality of consumerist culture helps us to realistically assess the situation and prayerfully seek God’s way of engaging with the people in such context.

The Jews in the early church were not aware of the nature of the gospel which can travel from one culture to another and change those cultures in the process. The New Testament clearly shows how Paul, Peter and the early church eventually came to realization that the gospel was for the gentiles as well. Surely the trans-cultural nature of the gospel will take its effect in our age. The gospel has been accepted by the Greeco-Roman world and changes them, and the same happened to the European cultures. In today’s postmodern, highly consumeristic context, the gospel will surely challenge and change the culture – after it has entered it.

So before we criticize those who believe they are entrusted to engage the consumers of today, let’s pause and remember that once, the Jews were also wondering if the gospel should remain entirely Jewish. Today, we who grew up in a different socioeconomic context, must not be too quick to judge. Shall the gospel be domesticated by the agrarian culture and be excluded from the consumecons culture birthed by modern free-market capitalism? I think it will find its way to the consumers, and then change them to disciples.

The gospel doesn’t change, and it doesn’t need us to overprotect it.

Recommended Writing Tools for Thesis/Dissertation


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