When is Church Growth Not Healthy Growth?

Mark Buckley mark@livingstreams.org via fellowshiponemail.com

to me
 I am a big fan and a friend of Mark Buckley, who pastors Living Streams Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark and his wife Kristine have been the guests of All Nations in the past and will come again next year, God willing. We are willing - just want to work out the dates with Mark and Kristine.
I love Mark's perspective on when church growth is not good growth...


December 2012                  Healthy Things Grow Naturally

Many people say “Healthy things grow. If something stops growing, it’s not healthy.” Some people apply that logic to churches and others apply it to businesses. I want to clarify that concept. No plants, animals or people keep growing indefinitely. All living things reach a maximum size determined by genetics and environment, otherwise they would become gigantic. When healthy things reach maturity, new growth comes through reproduction.

No business or church can grow indefinitely either. Healthy businesses stay focused on their customers and main products. If they get overextended they are vulnerable to all kinds of problems. Healthy churches grow to a size determined by the gifts, talents and opportunities given by God to the congregation and leaders. They reproduce by raising up mature disciples who establish new ministries and plant new churches. The apostles left Jerusalem to preach the gospel and establish new churches. Some of the new churches they established grew larger and lasted longer than the church in Jerusalem.

Jesus said, “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or toil.” (Mat. 6:28) Healthy things grow naturally. It is a flawed form of judgment to value people by the size of their ministry, business or bank account. That is like saying your mother was an incredible woman because she raised you in a big house. The impact of your mother, father, or friend is as great as the love they showed you and the wisdom they imparted to you. If Christ is in you, you may not be impressive to the world, but the faith and love you have can transform the life of anyone who believes your message.

One reason I enjoy the challenge of sports and games is the opportunity to make progress in ways that are measurable. A smoother golf swing improves my scores and helps me to feel like I’m learning and growing. We need to have a sense that we are growing in wisdom and understanding in life as well. After midlife, our bodies diminish in strength and energy. Life can be depressing if we focus on that decline. Fortunately, the Lord allows us to grow in grace and wisdom throughout our lives.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) Inward renewal comes as we draw near to the Lord in prayer and experience his grace. I’m learning to trust God in deeper ways, so my faith stays alive under stress and pressure. Spiritual growth can be measured by peace in our hearts and confidence in God when we face the pressures of life.

Our six year old grandson Matisse captured a scorpion and released it recently. The next day he asked his mother, “If I can catch a baby scorpion, how can we train it to hunt? Do they have books on that?”

Matisse will grow in size, wisdom and understanding in the years to come, but he is precious to us right now. You too will naturally grow in wisdom and understanding as you read the word of God and put it into practice. Yet I hope you realize that you are loved as much today as you will be on the day you meet the Lord and receive your reward.