Among followers of Jesus, great is often the enemy of good.
The drive to be great—to be a success by the standards of the world—often crowds out the qualities of goodness, virtue, and faithfulness that should define the central focus of Christian leadership. In the culture of today’s church, successful leadership is often judged by what works, while persistent faithfulness takes a back seat. If a ministry doesn’t produce results, it is dropped. If people don’t respond, we move on. This pursuit of “greatness” exerts a crushing pressure on the local church and creates a consuming anxiety in its leaders. In their pursuit of this warped vision of greatness, church leaders end up embracing a leadership narrative that runs counter to the sacrificial call of the gospel story.
When church leaders focus on faithfulness to God and the gospel, however, it’s always a kingdom-win—regardless of the visible results of their ministry. John the Baptist modeled this kind of leadership. As John’s disciples crossed the Jordan River to follow after Jesus, John freely released them to a greater calling than following him. Speaking of Jesus, John said: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Joyfully satisfied to have been faithful to his calling, John knew that the size and scope of his ministry would be determined by the will of the Father, not his own will. Following the example of John the Baptist and with a careful look at the teaching of Scripture, Tim Suttle dares church leaders to risk failure by chasing the vision God has given them—no matter how small it might seem—instead of pursuing the broad path of pragmatism that leads to fame and numerical success.
From the heart of a pastor, the mind of a theologian, and the soul of a prophet comes a word to Christians in North America: shrink. Be freed from ambition. Find God’s reign again in the daily faithfulness of living together in his kingdom. Few people could deliver this message with the same depth and piercing insight Tim Suttle has shown. In Shrink, he helps us face what we’ve been hiding from. He plows the scorched soil of the American church so we can take roots again and live. – David Fitch, Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, and author of Prodigal Christianity
The megachurch is an attempt to free vulnerability through size” is just one of the astute judgments that informs this book. Church growth strategies are the death gurgle of a church that has lost its way. Suttle helps us see how God in our time is making us leaner and meaner. I hope this book will be widely read. – Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke University
Tim Suttle has written a powerful, passionate, honest word to the church. He critiques a church too much seduced by American can-do culture. His gospel alternative is straightforward:
- faithfulness, not success
- story, not strategy
- virtue, not technique
- cooperation, not competition
The book is directed toward evangelicals who lust after megachurches. But I hope his book will spill over into the world of “progressive” Christians where I live. It is a good word, one that the entire church needs to hear. It draws us back to the truth enacted by Jesus. – Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
It takes courage to write a book like this. It also takes courage to read a book like this. Tim Suttle calls for a major shift in how we think about church growth. This conversation is challenging and empowering; unsettling and comforting; convicting and, ultimately, inspiring. That tension embodies the gospel itself, as does this refreshing perspective on congregational leadership. If you’re ready to explore ministry that is rooted in faithfulness and fruitfulness rather than culturally derived models of “success,” this is the book you’ve been waiting for. Shrink is full of life-giving good news for those who want to abandon the hamster wheel of western church culture and lead in the way of Jesus. – Rev. Erin Wathen, “Irreverin,” Senior Pastor, Saint Andrew Christian Church, Kansas City
In the tradition of the biblical prophets, Tim Suttle boldly but gently calls us out of our American obsession with bigness and greatness toward a vision of church life rooted in faithfulness. Shrink is one of the wisest and most significant evangelical books that I’ve read in the last decade; it is essential reading for every pastor and church leader! – C. Christopher Smith, co-author Slow Church and founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books
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