A Bible Reading: Mark 4. 26 - 29
Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Seven of us from across the benefice have recently taken part in a conference within the diocese: Leading your Church into Growth (LyCiG). I have had the privilege of being part of the national LyCiG team for fifteen years, so I am pretty familiar with all the material. Nevertheless, I never fail to be amazed by the natural phenomenon of growth and I always learn new and helpful insights into growing the churches where I am now.
Within the past week, our twin granddaughters, Chloe and Naomi, have started walking at just over eleven months old. It seems incredible to think that this time last year, we were eagerly awaiting their arrival. Born nearly four weeks’ premature, they were tiny and fragile with incredibly thin bony arms and legs, but they didn’t stay like that for long!
To some extent, we do know how the girls have grown. They have been cared for and nurtured with sufficient food and sleep, and as they have grown, they have been stimulated by play and contact with the rest of the family. At the same time, they have worked out how to eat solid food, how to crawl and walk and make noises all by themselves. As a doting grandmother, I have watched with delight as Chloe and Naomi have grown and changed. I expect it and I’d be worried if they hadn’t. They’ve already grown out of several sizes of cardigans that I’ve knitted, but I’m not upset about that. I may look at those tiny baby cardies with a little nostalgia, but I always knew their life span was going to be limited.
It is curious that we recognise and embrace these changes in daily life without a second thought. It is perfectly normal. Growth means change, and we expect it. So what do we expect growing to look like when it comes to church? For some reason, here we often genuinely want the church to grow but we don’t want the church to change. Unfortunately, we cannot have one without the other. And in fact, thanks to Covid, lots of things have changed already whether we like it or not. The challenge to us now is not to try and turn the clock back to how it was pre-March 2020.
Many of the parables of the kingdom reflect the growth principle and remind us again and again that growing things change as they grow. As we begin to rebuild post-Covid, we have a wonderful opportunity to reconsider what we do as a church and how we do it. As a first step, we are already praying the LYCIG Prayer for Growth regularly in our services. Keep the prayer handy and pray it often. Also, keep your eyes open for new seeds sprouting and growing within church life and give thanks to God for them.
The LyCiG Prayer for Growth
God of mission,
who alone brings growth to your Church.
Send your Holy Spirit to give
vision to our planning,
wisdom to our actions,
joy to our worship
and power to our witness.
Help our churches to grow in numbers,
in spiritual commitment to you,
and in service of our local community,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.