Unit 3.10 The Discipleship System and Beckham’s “Eddies”


The Discipleship System and Beckham=s AEddies@

Beckham, growing up in the American south, likes to quote a Henry G. Bosch story about a customer noticing the absence of a slow moving store clerk named Eddie:

AWhere=s Eddie? Is he sick?@

ANope,@ came the reply. AHe ain=t workin= here no more.@

ADo you have anyone in mind for the vacancy?@ inquired the customer.

ANope! Eddie didn=t leave no vacancy!@

There are quite a few AEddies@ in most churches today. They leave, and no one even notices. Why? First, because there is no real sense of the Body of Christ in which members are involved in a functioning manner. Second, many, by their own decision, have chosen to sit on the church bench on the sidelines of the action.[1]

Beckham points out that the percentage of AEddies@ in most churches is upwards of 80%. They participate in worship and little else. They are passive consumers of pastoral care, unable to care for themselves spiritually, and demanding that the entire church revolve around caring for their dependency needs.[2] This burns out those who are willing to serve and the church turns away from mission and evangelism to maintenance – the maintenance of spiritual infants. The following long quote by Beckham is the clearest definition I know of what is wrong with the church today:

Eddie=s contract with the traditional church is to be pampered, to receive ministry and to be entertained. In exchange, he will be counted in the numbers and will give an offering from time to time to support the system. Consumer Christians represent 80% of church members who are supported and ministered to by the other 20% who produce.

This means that Eddie is anything but a neutral factor in the ministry of the church. In fact, he probably represents its most serious debilitating factor. Eddie is a major consumer in the church itself, requiring many producing Christians to care for his needs. Consumer Christians neutralize the productivity of the 20% of mature members who expend most of their time and energy ministering to Eddie, Mrs. Eddie and all their Little Eddies. . . .

When all the Eddies sit down on church pews, you can almost hear the sucking sound as they draw ministry to themselves. How many producing Christians would you estimate are required to maintain the kind of program that will attract Eddie and keep him happy in the traditional church? Whatever the number, it is high maintenance and low return on the time, effort and money, because Eddie seldom contributes in a positive way to either the edification of the church or the evangelism of the world.

Eddie may leave if he finds another church he feels meets more of his needs. Eddie will gravitate toward the strongest ministry pull and the most guaranteed benefits. Eddie can always find spiritual sounding reasons to justify his migration to greener pastures. AWe are concerned for the spiritual welfare of our family. This new church has such a wonderful program for our children.@ Or, ATheir style of worship is so exciting and moving. We want to worship God like that.@ Or, AI am fed by the wonderful peaching of that pastor. He is such a spiritual man of God.@ Who can question Eddie=s motives when he gives such spiritual sounding reasons?

When Eddie leaves, he and his type Aleave no vacancy@ in the real ministry or work of the church. They just leave an empty spot on a pew on Sunday morning, a little less change in the offering place and one less member to have to pamper and please. Church leaders then must go out looking for another Eddie or two to replace the ones lost. What is going on here?

Churches of all sizes are held hostage by consumer Eddies who are the prime target audience for most twentieth century churches. Indeed, some of the most popular church growth strategies of the past several decades are built around consumer Christians in one way or another. Clever marketing schemes try to attract and hold the Eddies floating around in a self-centered society.

Why has the church agreed to allow its most immature members to dictate the ministry focus of the church? Why does the church tolerate manipulation – practically blackmail – from those members who contribute the least to the work of the church?

Eddies has his hook into the one-winged church because he presence is the measure of success in one-winged church circles. . . . And Eddie will not come if we do not ministry to him and give him what he wants.

The traditional system needs Eddies to fill a pew, to be counted in the numbers on Sunday, to financially support the construction of new buildings and the addition of new staff Aministers.@ All of these hooks are necessary to attract more consumer Eddies, who can fill more pews, which creates a need for new and better buildings to attract more Eddies, which means bigger buildings and on and on the cycle goes. Eddie is the driving force behind the Anoses and nickels@ game of the traditional church.[3]

The task of the discipleship system is to cause spiritual infants to grow up through stages of maturity to become spiritual parents and grandparents. When developmental needs for nurture and safety are met, spiritual infants begin to developmentally mature.  When cells function as nuclear families and cell leaders function as spiritual parents, this nurture is delivered and spiritual infants grow up.     

[1]Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, 41. My apologies to anyone named Eddie!

[2]The actual estimated percentage is 83% of worship attenders. For an illustration, see the visual parable at http://www.disciplewalk.com/parable_Not_being_fed.html.

[3]Bill Beckham, The Second Reformation, 44-46. Family systems theory suggests that churched Eddies also triangulate in order to control their access to the nurture they need; their desire to control the source of nurture for their dependency is the covert source of most church conflict.

NOTE (my response)



The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

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