We often say that “healthy things grow”. The assumption is that if our church is healthy, our weekend attendance should be growing.
I’ve gotten to live all over the country and one of the biggest differences is the many ways that plants grow. In southern California, there is the right combination of sun, soil and temperature to grow beautiful plants with very little human effort. Further north, the seasons dictate strong times of growth, pruning, dormancy and preparation. In south Florida, plants grow big and fast all year round. In fact, a big part of landscaping is pulling out plants that are “overgrown” and replacing them with new plants that will eventually become overgrown and need to be replaced.
It seems like these days I spend a lot of time reflecting on our focus on growth within the church… as if constant and fast growth is the only real sign that your church is successful. I am among a growing number of pastors who are becoming increasingly weary and disillusioned with the incessant push for “more” and “bigger”.
I find myself paying more attention to statements like those from the apostle Paul that Christ’s desire is for a bride that is “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”. More than the size of the bride, the focus is on the character of the bride. Instead of fixating on a BIGGER bride, maybe we should work harder at presenting a BETTER bride.
Recently in my morning quiet time, I was struck by the last part of Colossians 2:19…
They have lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Colossian 2:19 (NIV)
The body “grows as God causes it to grow”. That statement is not a license for passivity. But it squarely puts the ultimate responsibility of “growth” in God’s court. Whether He decides to step in and create a time of fast growth, or whether he gives you seasons that build a fruitful garden over a long period of time, God is the one who causes it to grow.
This takes the pressure off. As pastors and ministers, we can go back to planting, watering, cultivating, nurturing, protecting, and praying. We can cultivate an environment where healthy growth can happen. But it is imperative that we are clear on this one thing… the body grows as God causes it to grow.
Do you ever find yourself focusing too much on growth and advancement? Or taking on too much of this responsibility yourself?
When you read Colossians 2:19, what stands out to you?
How can you lead your teams in a healthier way?