I’ve read an article that gave me the inspiration to write this blog. It’s one of those articles that is half right, and I so want to agree with, BUT I CAN’T.
The author began by decrying our crime of substituting relationship with ritual. I find myself nodding with a hearty “amen.” However, as I read on, I began to feel troubled. The author then suggested that we should do in-depth Bible studies in order to build that relationship. I still say amen. After all, how can I argue against Bible studies, especially if my PhD is in biblical studies?
At this juncture, the thesis takes a turn for less than best. The thesis basically states that if we build relationship by in-depth Bible studies, our number would increase. Now, make no mistake about it. I’ve enjoyed speaking on biblical studies, and I’ve spoken in some of the largest North American Chinese churches as well as some gigantic churches in Asia. My most recent half-month trip to Richmond Christian Community Church in Toronto (pictured above, I’m the bald guy with the biker leather jacket and earring) had given me the opportunity to speak at a vast multi-lingual congregation that was eager to learn about the Bible. This was my second year with them. This is the fact! We like numbers. We like big venues. It’s very American; it’s very human. Yet, the kingdom of God is not about numbers because there’re problems associated with numbers.
The problem comes when part of our argument is, “We should do such and such, and the number will come.” That sort of logic doesn’t fly because it presupposes that number is the ultimate proof of whether we’re doing the right thing. No! Number proves nothing. History has been fraught with massive number of people doing the wrong thing. We do Bible studies so that our relationship with God and with each other can improve. Yes, that’s very biblical, but it shouldn’t logically follow that our church number would increase. We don’t do it to increase the number. We do so because it is the right thing to do, if we claim the Bible as the word of God. At the very least, we should do it because we should at least be literate in our own faith.
We had better stop letting our American utilitarianism take over our faith or we may eventually be left with only have our own utilitarianism.