Below is my thoughts on McGavern's book, Bridges of God. Like the Maclaren thoughts post, I wrote it in haste, wanting to throw words on the screen. My thoughts are there, but not adequately constructed in words. I don't feel like re-writing it, so I'll just let it be the raw, immediate thoughts. Kinda like unworked poetry...but well...not.
The primary focus of McGavern's book is the switch from Mission Station ministry to People Movement ministry. The entirety of the book is comparing and contrasting the two models of mission. To be fair, McGavern is not hostile to the Mission Station method of ministry, however points directly to is long-time ineffectiveness in resource use per convert rate. He humbles the People Movement by the inefficiencies and cautions he points out, but does champion this model with greater enthusiasm.
The Mission Station approach took on the mission of removing people from their culture, exterminating the “unsound” ways in which people live by exclusion. This exclusion was either deliberately proposed by a Mission Station or came as a result of community expulsion. In either case, the effect was the same – separation. This separation built up a crop of Westernized Christians, who were advancing in ways of prosperity, but in terms of community revivals, were rendered ineffectual as Gospel communicators.
The distance minimized the Church's growth, relying on one-to-one missionary activity. The business, efficiency calculation that McGavern keeps ready as a tool for success, downgrades the one-to-one strategy as an adequate missionary model. Fixed costs often consume the majority of profit if it doesn't in fact result in higher cost than production. Human resources, expended in the one-to-one result in a low rate of conversion returns.
McGavern makes quick notice however of the People Movements. These movements appear to be more relevant and certainly minimize the fixed human resources per conversion rate. It is a highly profitable model. In this method, conversions and Church Growth happens exponentially, and each conversion leads to others. This is very effective in a communal culture, where people decide as an entire people group to convert. This concept is foreign to our individualistic mind set, but McGavern quickly reminds the reader that to be a Christian is to act like a Christian and to genuinely take part in the Christian life, therefore a group decision is adequate as each member participates in the life of the Church.
The calculation metaphors that McGavern highlights in every chapter is degrading the view of Church. To be sure, his heart is not in the wrong place. He supports the communal people movements, however, he discusses this in terms of units – a completely Westernized and calloused way of observing the Church. What these people have correct is the personal, relational understanding of the Church. This is why the Church can grow at the rate in which McGavern gets excited about.
One of the strongest implications of this book is the focus on the difference between Mission Stations and People Movements. The models are diametrically opposed, even though both want to achieve a similar outcome. The Missionary Station is a “come to us” mission. Its goal is to pull people out of their contexts into a sheltered one. It is a Church building itself, sucking in the resources in order to inflate. The detriment is that the inflation creates a burst or rapid implosion and the mission appears ineffective.
The People Movement model however is an outward based movement, directly related to networking connections. People who know or interact with other people. Resources are not used to bring forth, but to propel outward. Like a fortuitous cancer, People Movements do indeed move people. This dynamic in the Church quickens the networks, sending quivers down the people pipeline. People come to know Christ in their own context, not because of the tantalizing benefits that the Missionary Station offer.
The time of the Church again must look toward the two models and evaluate which will be the more effective. Mission Stations, or institutionalized churches on a block will be moderately effective. To be sure, people come to know Christ through this method, yet this understanding distances people from their context and retards growth. The outbound model however contextualizes the gospel in a way that asks for dynamic inclusion into the kingdom. The organic spread envelopes a people, a community, asking for full participation together rather than to ask for separation. This is the model that the Church must move back into. This is the way that honest Church Growth will occur.