From the Pastor
“We want to grow!”
That’s a phrase that is heard around many, perhaps most churches. There is no surprise in that, after all I don’t think there are many churches that are intentionally trying to get smaller! I wonder, however, if we have really taken the time to think about the “what” and the “why” of church growth. So I’d like to take a moment or two and unpack these ideas a bit.
First, the “why.” Why do we want to grow? Sadly, in many churches, the answer has to do with numbers. In other words the thinking goes something like this: “We are running out of people and money so we had better do something before it’s too late.” The problem with this thinking is that it is too pragmatic, it lacks a spiritual component. While this kind of thinking might be fine for a club or social organization, it’s not for the church. The why behind church growth must rest on our desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. In other words, we have a message so wonderful that we want others to hear that message.
That still leaves the question however of “what.” What do we mean when we talk about a church growing? I think the answer lies in the idea of growing “deep” and “wide.” By deep I mean that if we want to grow then we must place a strong emphasis on spiritual growth. We must be growing deeper in our walk with God each and every day and we must make that a priority in our individual lives and in our life together as the Body of Christ.
By wide I mean the welcoming of new members through the sharing of the good news. Again, this is not numbers for numbers sake, but rather the reaching out and welcoming of a broad range of people - people who are hungry to hear some good news for a change, inviting them in, and making them a part of our fellowship.
Is this easy? In a word “no.” To do this we must examine all our actions to see if they are working to facilitate this growth. By actions I mean everything from decisions of the Session and Committees, to individual decisions we make, conversations we have, and so forth. We must ask if these actions are serving the goal of building up the Body of Christ or are they tearing it down? Are our actions helping to grow the church or reduce it?
A simple way to put this is the following question: Will this action help our church to grow deep and wide? You will be hearing more about this question in the coming weeks and months. Also you may have noticed that there are already a couple of signs posted around the church with this question. I want to keep this question front and center for our congregation as we look toward the future God has prepared for us, and I believe that it will help us to more clearly discern that future.
In closing, please allow me to take a moment and thank all of you for your Christmas gift to me and my family. I was very deeply touched by your generosity and the love you demonstrated through this gift. I hope that we will have many more holiday seasons together!
Yours in Christ,
“I hate New Year’s Day”
That’s what a friend told me recently. I greeted their words with a healthy dose of incredulity. After all, who could hate a day given over to non-stop football and the copious consumption of pork products? I wish everyday could be like that!
“No, no, that’s not what I’m talking about,” they said. “It’s all those resolutions. Every year I start out with a list of the ways that I am going to be different, the ways that I’m going to be better, and every year, usually only a few days in, those resolutions have long gone.”
Well, it’s a familiar problem, isn’t it? Most of us have been in the same place. Big promises! Bold decisions! New Year! New me! We start out thinking that we will reinvent ourselves this year but somehow, each time, those resolutions slip away one by one, leaving us right back where we started from. Instead of New Year, new me, we end up with same old, same old.
As someone once told me, “If I had lost all the weight I had set out to lose I’d be invisible by now.”
All of this makes me wonder if we might be looking for “newness” in the wrong place. It seems to me that all this business about resolutions too often focuses on what “we” can do, what “we” are capable of, what “we” are able to achieve. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be said for self-improvement, self-discipline, and hard work. But none of that will produce a “new me.” I might end up with a “better me,” a “thinner me,” a “happier me,” but a “new me?” I’m not so sure.
In Isaiah 43:19 God says this: “I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” I like that. First of all, I like it because the focus is on what God is doing, the newness that God is bringing into the world, into the church, into our lives. That’s a very different kind of newness than what we can bring. Second, I like it because God is bold enough to ask if we have even bothered to notice. Most of the time I don’t think we do. We don’t because we are so wrapped up into ourselves that we lack the vision, the perception, to see what God is doing, even when God is acting right there in front of our noses.
You know what I think would be a great New Year’s resolution? To fully embrace, look for, and actively seek the new thing that God is doing. To set aside past hurts, past grudges, past failures, past brokenness, and embrace the “new” that God brings. Not just once a year on January 1st, but each and every day.
Yours in Christ,