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Efficiency and Discipleship

On our little hobby farm, we recently introduced some new birds to our existing flock of layers. The new girls are a traditional breed of chicken that was once one of the most popular birds on family farms. Since the second world war, many new hybrids have been established. The new breeds are incredibly efficient egg layers. Efficiency is good, but it isn’t our chief aim on our homestead, so my wife and I have been gradually introducing a few of the old traditional breeds to the flock.

My new “old” chicks are called Buff Orpington’s. The breed originated in the village of Orpington outside of Kent in England and they are truly beautiful chickens.

Efficiency isn’t everything. In fact, the quest for efficiency, output, and production has done a great deal of harm to both livestock and the traditional family farm. There are benefits to efficiency, but it is worth remembering that every new technology replaces and eliminates an old one—maybe even some “old ways” that should not be thoughtlessly discarded.


“Every new technology replaces and eliminates an old one—maybe even some “old ways” that should not be thoughtlessly discarded.”


Churches also get caught up in the quest for efficiency. Sometimes the church has rushed to embrace new ways and new ideas without thinking deeply about whether those innovations are a good trade. In some cases, the new innovation replaces traditions that should not be lost.

As a church planter, I have been an early adopter of many new things. I’ve never cared much about hanging on to tradition for tradition’s sake. I am still not comfortable settling into the paradigm of “but we’ve always done it that way.” But I’m also no longer comfortable with embracing something just because it is new—not if it means losing something valuable and beautiful.

My old-fashioned buff birds have a lot to offer. They can reproduce readily. They tend to be healthier. They live much longer than the hybrids and continue laying eggs for many more years than the newer crosses. Not only that, they are a duo-purpose chickens. The hybrids are good at one thing. They can lay a lot of eggs for about two years. All their energy goes into egg production. Consequently, they never get big enough for the table. The traditional birds produce both eggs and meat. They can reproduce themselves and start new, healthy flocks. A case can be made that they are more valuable than the newer hybrid crosses!


“I’m no longer comfortable with embracing something just because it is new—not if it means losing something valuable and beautiful.”


We need to think carefully about what we might be replacing when we rush to embrace new ideas, philosophies, or the latest thing. Churches and societies need to think clearly about such things. It would be a shame to lose something beautiful.

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