Yesterday I wrote that one of the ways that capitalism hijacks the church’s imagination is by the introduction of values like efficiency into the life of the church.
I do not mean that the church should embrace inefficiency in its corporate life and ministries. There’s nothing good about wasting resources or misusing time and money.
One of the ways that capitalism has succeeded in capturing our culture’s imagination, however, is that efficiency has achieved preeminent status, overpowering all other values.
In the rise of global capitalism, a dominant concern was how to move goods to market most efficiently. Of much less concern were the considerable costs to the environment, to communities, and to workers and their families.
It seems to me that church leaders must be skeptical about efficiency as a value because one of the main tasks of the church is to cultivate fruitful community life.
That is, the mission of the church involves caring for people, nurturing relationships, fostering reconciliation, grieving with those who grieve, and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Pastors must confront those who are divisive and help them find redemptive ways of contributing fruitfully to the life of the church.
The value of efficiency involves making sure that time and effort are rewarded when it comes to the bottom line. But in the life of the church, much of what we do may be considered a “waste of time” when looked at through capitalist lenses.
Relationships are messy, reconciliation efforts take time and exhausting effort, and even these sometimes fail. And time spent visiting the elderly, the sick, the lonely, and the grieving—vital tasks of the church—may not be measurable or show up on the church’s bottom line.
In a sense, then, much of what constitutes the life of the church may be considered inefficient. Or, perhaps we should say that efficiency as a value must be disciplined by biblically-informed values for God’s people.
Again, it certainly is the case that churches must be faithful with their resources. But it is worth considering the extent to which subtly destructive values can creep into how we envision the task of being God’s people in the world.