I was in the middle of conversation at Street Church during the Malmö festival that the thought struck me. The word just popped into my head and fit so nicely on the tongue. Bonsai Christians. For those of you who are confused, Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing a plant in a tray (Bon = tray, Sai = plant) this together with some clever hortocultural techniques creates a miniature tree perfect for the office. It was made popular, if not in western culture, then certainly popular in my world by Mr. Myagi in Karate Kid. Later and horrible versions include the Internet spoof bonsai kitten witch claimed to have created fully grown cats shaped like square glass jars (this site was later shut down by the authorities because of the cruel content) anyways ….
The conversation was about doubt and the importance of a place in church for difficult questions, doubt and deconstruction within the church. As the conversation stumbled onto Fowlers stages of faith it struck me. This is exactly what we do. We take the stage 3 Faith (communal faith) and plant it in a shallow tray, with no room for the deep roots that are created by deconstruction and reconstruction, we prune the gospel down to byte size morsels easy to swallow and we complete stunt the ability for growth by disallowing the critical questions and the crisis of faith that follows. In a very real sense we crate our own Bonsai Christians. Pretty to look but almost completely useless in any other respect. These “plants” do not bear fruit, do not provide shelter and produces only a fraction of the refreshing oxygen a fully grown tree would produce.
What if we where to allow the seedlings of stage two faith grow into stage three not pruning or cutting but allowing the painful process of uprooting and replanting into deeper and richer soil, what if the church itself is the tray, and we actually have to let our Christians out in the wild to enjoy true growth and the maturity of the following stages?