Should exciting church growth be typical?

The Lord is really blessing Meadow View Church. (Not pictured here.) A number of people pray to receive Christ each service. And a few weeks ago, there were 24 baptized. The attendance is continuing to increase (up about 1000% since Pastor Craig Liscom has come to the church), and it looks like it isn’t done increasing. There is quite a bit of excitement about what the Lord is doing. The leaders have outlined what they believe the Lord is going to do with the church as its growth continues and the logical need to start a building expansion. I believe the wind of the Spirit is really blowing at the church right now. My point here is not to find a criticism with Meadow View but rather to end an implied criticism at other churches in town which are not experiencing these winds of change.

I began to think about how the Wind is blowing at Meadow View but seems to be little more than a gentle breeze at most of the churches I have visited in town. At first, I was thinking how all churches should be like Meadow View and have the excitement of many things happening and many plans being made for the future. Meadow View certainly seems to be the kind of church you would read about in a church growth book; it is a dynamic and successful church right now. But should this be a permanent characteristic of a local church? Will it remain a characteristic of Meadow View?

Some people have said that growth is a necessary part of life; if you are living you should be growing, and if you are not growing, you are beginning the process of dying. Is this really so? I like the thought of all churches increasing in their attendance, of more people coming to know Jesus as Savior and becoming involved in a local church. It is certainly part of what all churches should be seeking. Something is wrong with the presupposition above, life entails growth. God is alive but he does not grow. Life in a fallen world entails a life cycle, lots of growth in our youth but not in old age. Growth has a lot of advantages. But I have trouble imagining many people in their majority being excited at the thought of returning to being like a twelve year old. Perhaps local churches have a similar life cycle.

It seems all churches, large or small, come to a place where the Wind becomes a gentle breeze of the Spirit working consistently in their midst. Perhaps it is like moving from springtime to summer. Lots of quick growth in the spring. But spring turns to summer and things change. And this change isn’t bad. What is bad is when the Wind no longer blows at a church and the church disbands under the stress of the summer sun.

It helps me to draw a metaphor with trees. If every church were suppose to be like a California Redwood, one would expect a long life-cycle and tremendous growth. (But even here they top out at some point, nothing on earth lives in a perpetual spring or a perpetual adolescence.) I think churches should be more like fruit bearing trees. The season of growth is very important for the tree but the real purpose is the fruit that comes from a mature tree. In this analogy, evangelism is building the tree (and thus the need to expand facilities to handle the logistics of a larger membership). But the real point is the tree coming to a maturity (growth having stabilized) where it produces fruit. For the church this would be the believers becoming spiritually mature, walking in a way that glorifies God in their daily life: the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit.

It is very exciting to see people come to Jesus. Even the angels rejoice over this. But this excitement needs to transition, just like the excitement at a baby’s birth to the parenting which results in a healthy and productive adult.

Originally posted 6/2/10.

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