Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beyond 150 - Numb8rs

For churches to grow beyond the 150 ceiling, probably the greatest battle that is to be had, is in the hearts and minds of those who are nervous about growth. Be it struggling with the theology around growth, to the woundedness that produces a small minded culture to protect a broken heart, to a vulnerability that comes from the fear that I will get lost in a growing community, when I am already lost in an overwhelming world... and so the reasons grow.

May I suggest we need a deep and irrepressible conviction of the theology of growth. Obviously I am not legitimisng raw naked soulish ambition. However, the overriding story of the scriptures, reflects that the divine intention of the Father reveals a heart of enormous extravagance. From the Genesis story God declared: Gen 1: 28 "And God blessed them. And God said to them:'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...'" The garden was never a destination but a launch pad. God plan was never smallness but multiplied largeness. This was repeated throughout the OT to all the great patriarchs [ Gen 8:17, 9:1, 13:14 - 17, 17:3 - 8, 26:2 - 5, 35:11 - 14, 48:3 - 4.]

Beyond a whole book in the scriptures that gives an account of Numbers, we see continuous referral to numbers and details. Of course one cannot have this conversation without the life and teaching of Jesus himself. Luke as doctor and author, had a particular eye for numbers. In his account of the Jesus story, he walks us through the calling of the twelve, then the sending of the twelve [5:1 - 11, 6:12... 9:1 - 6] to the next group of 72 that Jesus trained and sent [10:1 - 23] to the 120 in the prayer room [Acts 1:15] then the wonder of the first sermon preached that led to 3000 added that first day [Acts 2:41]. My point being that God indicates number details because they are important and should build our faith to believe for God to do more amongst us. In fact when Jesus speaks of himself as the shepherd [John 10], he says that ' I have sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them in also.' He always has more sheep for us, that are not yet in the fold.

Paul the great apostle does a great job in 1 Corinthians 3 when he reminds us that: ' I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow'. This ecological metaphor is delightful. Seeds multiply themselves. They cannot help it. We need to labor - each with our giftings. It takes more than one to get the job done. Then of course, it is God who brings the growth. True God life brings growth, for wherever He is, there is life [Rev 2:1 + 2] and where there is life, there is growth.

Now may I add to the conversation, those who would say that they are sovereignly destined to be in communities or to lead communities that are small. This sentiment does pander to insecurities but does not reflect scripture. It is true that God gives us gifts and talents of different sizes and capacities. However, it is not true that that is a fixed number that cannot be changed. Two parables in Luke's gospel dispel this [Luke 16:1 - 13; 19:11 - 27.] If we are faithful with a little, we will be entrusted with much... there is a relationship between the two. Or in the second text, Jesus teaches that if we are trustworthy in a small matter, we will take charge of ten cities. Our capacity is not a static predetermined amount. Our response to Jesus does influence the nuance of the Father's generosity.

We cannot end this theology of growth conversation without looking at the power of team. When the scriptures draws to our attention that: 'Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work'[ Eccl 4:9] we are joined to a journey with others, that is empowering and liberating. Punching beyond the 150 ceiling is rarely done alone. Of course it can be done by force of character or by charismatic personality. However, for many, this will only be achieved when this local community, agree theologically that it is the Father's desire for them to grow and are prepared to lean into the wheel together, that this mark can be shattered.

1 comment:

  1. Love that theology of growth approach. Having God add to our number to a point where we reached 90 it seems we are now stuck at that mark. I find that this stage of 90+ seems to be God adds but we take away. What I mean is that people who are not comfortable with growing beyond who we are at the moment will fight to keep the church small. I think in the minds of some the rise of mega church and multi site campus has sowed the seed of doubt in their minds that growing is a God idea and therefore a good idea.
    I will watch your blog for the next instalment with interest