In a recent conversation with a leader, I used the expression “healthy things grow”to talk about hoped for results in an area of coaching.
It is a good principle. Healthy kids grow. Healthy plants grow.
If there is health, there is growth.
Yet, we encounter some problems with this principle.
All things do not grow the same way.
All churches do not grow in the same way. All ministries do not grow in the same way.
All relationships do not grow the same way.
All disciples do not grow the same way.
In church leadership, the tendency is to equate growth with numeric growth. More people means there is health.
That is a lie, and a trap. A church can grow by telling people what they want to hear. There are plenty of those out there.
Pointing to numeric growth as a sign of healthy things, the tendency is to become driven to experience growth.
But healthy things are not the only things that grow. Cancer grows. Weeds grow. Beer bellies grow.
It is also a way to dismiss other avenues of growth.
Are people developing perseverance? Experiencing Christ more fully in their daily lives? Demonstrating compassion to others? Becoming light where they are?
Are they transforming workplaces, sports teams, schools, and communities by their presence.
The Gospel is not an individual church growth strategy, it is a Kingdom growth strategy. And the Kingdom can easily be growing around a healthy church whose numbers are constant.
What possible ways are there to grow in your ministry context?
Focusing our efforts on the numeric growth is a way to build our own sense of significance.
It is a way to feed the false self improve how we measure up by comparison, and thus improve our sense of worth.
We can do this in our spiritual life by seeking value in the questions “How often…”,“How long…”, and “How much…”. Doing the right things rather than being the right person.
When growth is the driving force, it becomes easy to compromise our values. Growth becomes the new value.
In this type of church system, performance and perfection become idols. People can be manipulated and used as a means to an end and then discarded.
The lens of appropriate behavior becomes whatever helps with growth.
All because healthy things grow. And growth is limited to numbers.
This is not an excuse to become a closed system.
Becoming an inward focused church, closed to outsiders, is not a sign of health. Therein lies the real principle to follow.
If healthy things grow, then our focus should be on health.
In the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13, the man who took care of it addressed the lack of growth by addressing the root. (See Luke 13:8) Creating the potential for growth.
Growth will happen in its season. Our trust should be in the God who makes things grow.
We should strive to remain connected to Him. In our churches, we should disciple people to build and foster that connection, and then live from that connection all them time.
Identity secure in Christ, we can rest that in God’s economy, growth is his stated responsibility.
So questions that we should ask of our self and of our organizations are:
What does health look like? What is the pathway to health?
How is a healthy spirituality or organization maintained? What challenges to health will be experienced?
How are pursuit of health and desire to grow balanced? Is my or my organization’s lack of numeric growth indicative of a lack of health?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.