Someone I deeply respect once told me that I should study at Aberdeen. The fact that everyone who I encounter from there is brilliant is a compelling reason for me to take up the advice. Jon Coutts is one such fellow. He blogs at This Side Of Sunday and he recently threw up a quote from Barth’s Dogmatics that we enjoyed at work.

We cannot, therefore strive for vertical renewal merely to produce greater horizontal extension and a wider audience. At some point and in some way, where it is really engaged in vertical renewal, it will always experience the arising of new Christians and therefore an increase in its constituency, but perhaps at a very different point and in a very different manner and compass from that expected…. It can be fulfilled only for its own sake, and then—unplanned and unarranged—it will bear its own fruits.

I love this. The context is the fairly indisputable claim that we ought not to think simply that church growth in numerical terms is a sign of health. As the best person I ever met, Kath, once put it, “I can’t tell whether our church is growing or just getting fatter.” The “vertical” growth that Barth speaks of is the source of the “horizontal” growth that is visible in terms of numbers. But if you go after a deeper relationship with God for the sake of church expansion then you will fail in both regards.

It is not hard to grasp and it would be hard to argue with but it is beautifully put by Barth. Go for God for God’s sake. Do that and then unplanned and unarranged—it will bear its own fruits.

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