Rethinking Growth

With water can in hand, I buzzed from plant to plant in our living room, dumping irregular splashes of water on our thirsty little plants. All of the plants have been given to us, and after killing so many, we’ve finally found our niche with the current batch. They have survived on account of a mix of hardiness on their part and an increased awareness on our part.

I don’t know the names of any plants except for the prayer plant that shoots up at night and then rests in the morning light . . . or is it the other way around? As of 10:15 PM it looks rather “up” to me. Regardless of the plant names, the prayer plant and a counterpart on the other side of the room exhibited some yellow leaves that I promptly snipped off. Fresh green leaves sprouted from the top, declaring, “Out with the old, in with the new.”

Examining the two plants, I noticed that neither has grown at all in the past year despite our increased watering efforts. The simply grow new leaves, dump off the old ones, and carry on. I suddenly found a new paradigm for “growth” and “health.”

Though the plants have not increased in size, they have changed, grown, and remain healthy. That doesn’t jive with our evergreen, constantly growing theology of growth for Christian congregations.

That’s not to say that it’s wrong to expect constant growth in size. What I’m hinting at is this: there are different plants, different seasons, and different ways to grow. God is not a one-size-fits-all kind of God. He’s really quite flexible. I suppose we could have learned this from the Bible, but God’s people are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer. It takes me a while to catch on.

Minor fluctuations in size and members may be a perfectly normal characteristic for a church. In other groups there may be major growth spurts and then quiet seasons. The possibilities are endless.

It’s easy to be hard on ourselves. While we should expect much from God. Miracles and incredible restoration can happen. Sometimes, though, it’s a miracle if we can just learn to appreciate all that he’s done already and rest in that.