Imagine interviewing for a church position today and saying, "I believe God wants us to be kingdom-focused and mission-minded. It could be that as we start to move into more intensive discipleship, we will shrink before we grow."
In most churches, you would be shown the door quickly. It's too risky. No one wants to hear about shrinking. Never mind that the concept is biblical. Never mind that Jesus talks about branches being pruned for the good of the tree. Never mind that shrinking actually happened in Jesus' earthly ministry.
The church in the West is booming on a financial and social level. There are more churches now in the United States than ever before in our history. The percentage of people attending church weekly continues to hold steady. Buildings. Budgets. Baptisms. We have them all. But the influence of Christianity on American society is waning. Our impact is hardly felt. Could it be that we finally have reached the pinnacle of worldly "success," and that this Caesar is undermining our witness?
We subvert the Caesar of Success whenever we, as a community of faith, reject the idea that bigger is necessarily better. We subvert success when we go from riches to rags on behalf of the world's poor … when we find happiness and contentment in people, not things … when our churches partner with one another, not as competitors, but as co-workers in the kingdom.
Above all, Christian communities subvert the Caesar of Success when they recognize the Holy Spirit's power over results, redefine success to include the embrace of suffering, and actively pursue unity in the body of Christ. Christians are not called to be "successful"; we are called to be faithful.
An excerpt from the late-2nd-century Letter to Diognetus ...1
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