No Visible Means of Support

The Body Builder

by Major Terry Camsey –

We had a few minutes to spare so I switched on the television. This was at the Training School during a visit to the Australia Southern Territory a few years ago. We were not familiar with the programs available so, as it was early in the morning, we hit a children’s program.

To the best of my recollection it was a show about physics or mathematics. My attention was caught by the video clip of an old film about King Kong, or some other such monster. It was the commentator’s remarks that made me prick my ears up. “It would be,” he said, “scientifically impossible for an animal of this size to support itself, given the material of which it was made. It would, in reality, collapse under its own weight!”

He went on to say that nothing can grow indefinitely and support itself without an increase in the tensile strength of the material of which it is constructed. He also said that the same principle applies throughout nature. I had read somewhere else that no animal can grow above nine inches tall without a skeleton and I imagine this is true, not having seen an 10″ tall jellyfish lately!

He talked of the highest buildings in the world, noting that they could not be built any higher until ways are found of strengthening the material of which they are constructed. I guess another aspect to consider, so far as buildings are concerned, is that the ground itself must be capable of supporting the structure (the wise versus the foolish man…). Only this week we heard that the plush new golf course being constructed near THQ on the ocean-front lost its 18th hole. It just slipped off into the sea. That’s one hole no golfer is likely to miss in future!

The television lecturer suggested that the tallest trees in the world could not be taller unless constructed of some other, stronger, material…and that even Mount Everest could not possibly be higher unless its composition were stronger.

It occurred to me that the same concept might be applied to churches. They cannot grow indefinitely unless constructed in such a way as to support the extra “weight” of new people. In other words, there is a very real danger of any church, growing or stagnant, collapsing unless its infrastructure is strong enough to “support” its congregation.

It is a structural problem that, for the church, needs to be solved by relational means. Small groups are the answer. Groups that build community, mutually encourage and support their members. Groups where participants serve each other, edifying and building up the “tensile spiritual strength” of the Body.

In this day and age, many such groups serve as surrogate families, the only families some people may ever experience. And if, in some areas, street gangs provide that surrogate family experience (in a negative environment of support), what should the Christian response be?

One things seems to be certain, small groups provide the strength enabling churches to “put on weight” indefinitely (by adding new members) without collapsing under the strain. It is also a fact that churches with strong small groups withstand change far more easily than churches that lack such integral relational strength.

It’s worth a closer look. Isn’t it?

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