Laurie Brock is not a gardener, but she notices that we in the Church love to talk about “growth.” She if this distracts us from the health of our little corners of God’s garden.
Our churches are enamored with the language of growth. We love to talk about it. In the work I’ve done with churches calling a new pastor, almost all of them want to grow. We gather at clergy conferences and talk about growth. We have, I think, equated success in ministry with church growth, as if we all strive to grow wild and fast and have the biggest church plant on the block.
Sort of like kudzu.
I wonder, however, if we’ve missed the mark. Growth, as God’s creation informs us, happens best with health. Healthy plants grow. Sickly plants who are lacking enough light, nourishment, and water meander and struggle.
I ran across an article a few days ago that asked this question: Are we focusing on the wrong thing in church life? What happens if we focus on church health rather than church growth?
What if we shifted our focus not to add people and money (which is often the subtext of ‘we want to grow’) to a focus on being healthy? Honestly, focusing on growth defined by numbers is the easy part. Deep, sustainable growth in faith, health, and love takes hard work.
That kind of growth is difficult to measure. Clergy can’t brag about that kind of growth at conferences as easily, and it doesn’t make for quick blurbs on annual reports. But honestly, I think Jesus would be much more excited with “We talked open and honestly about addiction and found ways to be a supportive community for those struggling with addiction and confessed our own addictions to much in life” than “We increased our average Sunday attendance by 7578.”