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Honey, we shrunk the Lord!

Jaynan Clark Egland, President, WordAlone Network

April 18, 2007

photo of Pastor Jaynan Clark EglandYears ago, Disney released a couple of movies based on the concept of shrinking people either intentionally or by accident. Whether one intended to point the machinery, aim and fire or if the subject stepped inadvertently in the line of fire the result was the same—a shrunken version of the original.

It is time to review the big screens of the institutional churches, mainline and sideline and the non-denominational varieties and consider if the shrinking machine has been activated. I proffer this is the case. Though the theologies differ and the systems, programs, structures vary, the result is the same—a little itty bitty Jesus. Whether one tends to swing to the extreme right on the theological pendulum and has reduced Jesus to a one dimensional, flat, printed page, literal "lord" or to the extreme left and has reduced Jesus to a social activist of ethical and political significance in the areas of service and relationships, either way, both the left and the right have encapsulated the crucified, risen and eternal Lord of all into a human idol of manageable, manipulative, reasonably understandable size. Small in stature.

Too long the institutional churches have been content to let those who teach in their colleges and seminaries spread a gospel of human construct. Too long they have elected leadership by how "nice" the candidate might seem or how good a speech he or she can give. The mainline churches purposely have decreased the depth of their critical discernment and theological understanding in order to widen their embrace of anything and anyone and everything and everyone. Though the old Sunday school song repeats "deep and wide" they continue to skim the surface so the denominations can appear to be wider, more diverse, wholly inclusive and, therefore, a picture of total unity. They have been going for "big and wide" institutional churches by means of a shrunken little "lord."

The machinery of the institutional churches and their politics and programs and elections purposely have tried to broaden their appearance by scratching the surface so they can appear to be planting the seed when they have not yet turned over the soil.

You can grow a denomination or federation or even a local congregation by selling an extremely shrunken version of the Christian "good news." Choosing to do so can be accomplished either by being so literal that Jesus the Living Word is trumped by words only on paper or by being so relative in outlook that Jesus is left as one among many helpful spiritual gurus and social activists. Either is an extreme position—whether intentionally or mistakenly—increasing the power of the institution while shrinking the Living Lord to an improper place under human ambition. The result is a material "church" of human construct, which is not a church at all.

The one, true Gospel—which by its proclamation produces the one, true church in gatherings of believers all around the world—resists institutionalization. It cannot be programmed or systematized or shrunken for "it" is He, Jesus. He lives because human efforts to shrink Him—even crucify Him—ultimately have been defeated. Many of the politicians and ecclesial leadership of the day, then and now, remain on the fringe to the right and to the left, working in the shadows against Him in order to reduce Him. Yet He has claimed His "proper place" on the cross at the center of the universe and eternity. Our risen Lord—who stepped forth leaving the tomb empty—is bigger than life!