The whole point of our Dinosaurs to Rabbits book is to help spur our colleagues in the Mainline Church to get serious about transforming the church into a multiplication monster (a good kind of monster!). But the heart of the matter is that in our experience, the Mainline Church has lost its heart for making disciples … we’ve traded in our Theology of Growth for a Theology of Life.
In short, a Theology of Growth is grounded in the Great Commission whereas a Theology of Life is firmly entrenched in the Great Commandments. Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re not diminishing the Great Commandments … Jesus was pretty clear that they’re the foundation of the gospel. But too often, in the Mainline, the precedent of the Great Commandments have been practiced to the exclusion of the Great Commission.
A Theology of Growth puts personal salvation, living justly, and the growth of the kingdom of God before all else. It insists that telling people about Christ and bringing salvation to the world is the primary goal of Christianity. Everything else pales in comparison to this belief.
On the other hand, a Theology of Life replaces the deep-seated belief in sharing Jesus with the world, with a belief that Christianity is primarily a way of life. For them, being merciful, just, and good replaces sharing Jesus; social justice replaces personal salvation. Pastors become counselors that brings the equivalent of a self-help message. In many ways, it has become more of an Old Testament theology of Do Good because that’s the way of godly life … a politically neutral way of saying live by the law, albeit a “law of love.”
The fulcrum of a Theology of Growth is Jesus. Jesus is the cornerstone, the capstone, the foundation, the lynchpin, the way the truth and the life. And this is exactly where Mainline Christianity has been weakest – and a weak Christology means a weak message. Let’s be honest here, although the Bible can be used as a self-help philosophy of living, when we do the same with the gospel of Jesus, we’re little more effective that Dr. Phil or the Dali Lama (with no offense whatsoever intended to either of those) … but our message becomes live good and you’ll live well, at least on a psychological level.
We can’t live without the Great Commandments, but when Jesus is preached and kingdom growth is primary, then love is applied liberally … atop of a spiritual renewal of confession, repentance, and transformation. And it is upon these principles and practices that the multiplication we read about in the book of Acts becomes active and effective in today’s world.
For more on a Theology of Growth that undergirds a Theology of Life, see Dinosaurs to Rabbits: Turning Mainline Decline to a Multiplication Movement.