Andy Bryan wrote a good-humored blog entry about the use of the Five Practices in his congregation and among his colleagues. He coined the verb ìto Schnaseî to describe those times when he or someone else would use a quote from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. He talked about ìSchnaseingî people and being ìSchnasiedî as people bounce various quotes back and forth.
I loved it, and laughed my way through the whole blog. I even forwarded a copy to my Mom. Thanks, Andy. (Not to worryÖ.I didnít take the unrelenting intentional corruption of my family name personally! At least, not much.)
But watch out, Andy, because two can play this game. I found myself ìBryaningî someone the other day. I was talking to a group of pastors about how to use the book in congregations, and someone raised a question about numbers from the last chapter on Excellence and Fruitfulness. Is congregational effectiveness reducible simply to attendance and financial numbers?
I remembered back to a reflective blog entry written by Andy Bryan several months ago as he thought about the multi-faceted meaning of fruitfulness. Andy wrote something like, ìThe bishop has written a 144-page book on fruitfulness. If fruitfulness was just about the numbers, he could have written a pamphlet!î
Bingo! I ìBryanedî the guy right in front of everyone. And he didnít seem to mind. He nodded, and agreed with Andyís keen insight. Yes, fruitfulness is more than numbers. But that doesnít mean numbers arenít important. They can provide some measures for fruitfulness that we should not ignore.
First, I give God thanks for the delightfully good-humored manner of talking about serious elements of ministry and mission.
Second, Iím glad weíre talking about fruitfulness. The more we focus on what we hope to achieve for Godís purposes, and the more attention we give to the changed lives and transformed communities that we seek for the purposes of Christ, then the more we avoid the trap of congratulating ourselves on efforts, expenditures and inputs. Jesus spoke boldly about fruitfulness in language rich with references to seedtime and harvest, sowers and sowing, vines and branches. This reminds us that God expects us to live lives faithfully and fruitfully, seeking through our life and witness to return to God more than God has entrusted to us.
What do you think? What makes for congregational fruitfulness? Is it more than bodies and bucks, attendance and giving? How do we assess the impact congregations have in the lives of our members, and those beyond our church?