“Scale is the enemy of discipleship just as efficiency is the enemy of relationship.” Un*discipled. Tyler Johnston makes an excellent point about the problem of scale since the maintenance of the programme will require actions that do not build relationships. “In placating the masses, we have lost our ability to effectively disciple the individuals comprising the masses“, Johnston says. “Scale simply permits many of us to hide for years and in many cases, for a lifetime.”
When our children were growing up, we made home-made pizza on Saturday nights. It was a brilliant strategy! The kids loved it and there was always plenty of food for friends who wanted to come over. We used two huge pans, each eighteen inches across; the biggest that could fit on the two shelves of a large oven. This amount of pizza generally would leave a few leftovers for the next day for a family with three hungry teenagers. As a Dad, I loved developing the skill in making this: it was a pattern that worked so well that our children have learned to do the same today.
The design did have a problem, however, if we invited more than eight people for supper (two big slices each). The pizza took thirty minutes to bake and if we “scaled-up” by inviting sixteen people we could only feed each guest one slice in the first half hour while the second batch of pizzas were baking. We could precook some pizzas, heating them as needed. This took less time, but they tended to dry out and were not ‘oven-fresh’.
We call this a problem of scale-up; something works well on a small scale or pilot project, but as soon as the numbers increase, the very things that were attractive, must be changed in order to accommodate the crowds. We could invite more people for pizza but it would not be as good. (Fractals and Faith pp.25,26)
We have to build discipleship into the DNA so no matter at what scale we go, it is “in the genes”; the genetic material faithfully reproducing the desired outcomes. This is not a program but a life style. It is person to person, with real people. It is teaching people how to make pizza rather than trying to feed more and more from the same oven. Contrarily, as soon as we convert discipleship into a program, we substitute information for experience, and vicariously live our spirituality through our pastor-hero.