In the third chapter, Crabtree identifies a few factors that play a role in the growth of church congregations. He talks, first, about the desires of both clergy and laity in those congregations. Everyone wants a growing church full of educated, faith-filled people. As Crabtree notes, there's no lack of resource here.
However, our buildings are filled with "row after row of empty pews" (to quote the author), exhibiting that we have the space, but are clearly lacking some other resource(s) for growth.
His theory is that we are lacking in two key areas: knowledge and insight.
Knowledge, for him, is information and insight is the "capacity to connect knowledge to context."
Jesus would say that this is "knowledge without understanding." Welcome to the age of the internet.
But there's another factor here that Crabtree touches on, but doesn't (so far) acknowledge as fully as I think he should: the importance of teachability.
Teachability is a much-needed quality in our world today. Thanks to the internet, we live with a world that is increasingly losing respect for experts. Thanks to the little smart phone many of us carry around, answers are just a Google search away and, as a result, we treat experts with a degree of trepidation. Not only that, but our own notions of "expertise" become inflated.
What this all boils down to is a lack of teachability. Because it is hard to teach someone when they think they already know something. And many of us think that we either know everything, or have access to the pertinent information, thereby granting us access to the knowledge about everything.
But knowledge without context is useless.
Knowing all the factors that lead to church decline, all the trends that folks say will rescue our parishes, etc. is great. But it's only knowledge. Theory.
If we are to grow as a parish, a diocese, a denomination, we are going to need to become teachable.
All of us.
And teachability brings with it humility.
I saw a comic on Facebook recently that showed a man at a pulpit asking "Who wants change?" and the entire depicted audience had their hands raised. The next panel had the same man asking "Who wants to change?" and not a single hand could be seen. This is truth.
We like the idea of change. So long as it remains abstract. But when "change" ceases to be a concept and becomes action, and thereby demands something from us, then we're less excited. This is because, frequently "change" really means "change-for-someone-else."
But having a teachable spirit means that we have to be willing to change ourselves. To embrace actual change and not conceptual change.
And for that we will be better.