By Matt Gordon
More is a dangerous word.
Now, let me be clear, it can be a good word too. Not all dangerous things are bad. Like motor scooters—dangerous and great! More ice cream, please—a beautiful, but sometimes dangerous request. More love, more grace, more depth . . . good, good, good.
But where more gets dangerous is when it becomes the ultimate driving force in arenas that deal with people. When a company focuses acutely on more growth, more profit, and more market share, it will scale in a way that makes its workforce (and possibly its clients) less and less important. Value designations will fall off of attributes like loyalty and integrity and ingenuity and honestly, and cling only to tendencies that feed the beast of accumulation. More, more, more.
Of course, these things don’t stay in the realm of business. Before sex became one of our primary gods, Americans already bowed at the altars of money and power. Therefore, business leaders and savvy institutions were featured, lauded, and imitated. Often this business mimicry found its way into the Church, and it still does today. The idea of more does too.
Western churches began to buy into the myth of more. More venues, more services, more reach, more clicks. Numbers began to be tossed around, first in board meetings (sounds pretty business-like) and then in sermons—how much money was given way, how many people came to this or that, how many members joined, and so on. This was an idea that morphed into a strategy and then slithered into the scary terrain of justification. The ends forever justify the means, and the ends that win in many religious institutions increasingly became tied to a single result—more. Do we have more people? Do we have more money? Did we get more clicks? Do we have more market share?
When this thinking surfaces—and it is always veiled behind platitudes and often tied loosely to biblical precepts or some kind of greater, immediate gospel good—tendencies manifest. First among these is that more becomes greater than quality. Instead of doing a few things really well, churches will spread themselves thin expanding ministries and dropping others, chasing the culture and the cultural moment around like that oh-so-familiar man playing tag with the wind.
This often leads to the second tendency—this chasing of the culture. The culture loves celebrity. We love our movies and shows and tabloids. We follow our favorite voices on social media, wearing what they wear, eating what they eat, and believing what they believe. Jesus said that he is the way, but this path of celebrity seems like a pretty effective deal too. And it is so much faster. Discipleship is a slog. Depth—seriously, all that work? Preaching the whole counsel of God—is that really what the people crave? Celebrity-making and institution-building brings a tangible swiftness—reactions and engagement. It is flashy and noticeable and easy to rally around. Followers. Clicks. Gifts. More!
The thing about more is there is never enough of it. So we chase and we chase and we chase. Our bigger buildings need stronger defenses. Our impressive programs need stalwart systems. Our horde of volunteers need more rigid policies. Our church celebrities and sacred platforms need extra provisions, different rules, and a special measure of grace and understanding—for they, after all, are the sources of the glory and the power. They yield the now-hallowed more.
And in this vain pursuit of power and influence there is a paradox—as more is gained (power and influence and savviness and devotees and pride), more is lost (humility, grace, gentleness, and reliance of the Spirit of God). More calls the shots. Rather than action being taken because it is right and true, and more existing as a God-given byproduct in a God-ordained fashion, more directs the action. Every action. Every decision.
Eventually the slithering snake of the prideful myth of more discovers something in its mouth. It is a different, yet familiar taste. Ravenous with inescapable hunger, it gnaws onward without realizing the bitter truth that it has been brought full circle and is devouring itself. Pressing on thusly, all the vain pursuits of more will come, in the end, to nothing.
Yes, more is a dangerous word. But it can be a good word too.
Regardless of the size of the crowd or the cultural moment. And, of course, more Love, forevermore.