Growth means change (30-04-21)
A Bible Reading: Mark 4. 26 - 32
He also 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.”
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
As most of you know, we have recently had the joy of welcoming identical twin granddaughters, Chloe and Naomi, into our family. Born nearly four weeks’ premature, they were tiny and fragile with incredibly thin bony arms and legs. To begin with, all they did was eat and sleep. Now five weeks later, they are already growing and changing fast. Their little limbs have filled out with a healthy chubbiness, as they have slowly gained weight, and the tiniest baby clothes are already too small. The twins are more alert and already beginning to take an interest in the world around them. And slowly but surely, they are beginning to get the idea that the night is for sleeping and the day for being more wakeful. No doubt a welcome relief for their sleep-deprived Mum! As doting grandparents, we have watched with delight as Chloe and Naomi have grown and changed. This is normal and only to be expected.
Likewise, my seedlings have been steadily growing over the same five week period. They too have filled out and grown bigger. Some have shed their first pairs of leaves as they have grown into taller, sturdier plants. Some have outgrown their original seed trays and have required transplanting into larger containers with more space for continuing growth and development. Again, this is normal and only to be expected.
It is curious that we recognise and embrace these changes in biology and nature without a second thought. It is perfectly normal. Growth means change, and we expect it. So, what about mission and church growth? 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.
Many of the parables of the kingdom reflect the growth principle and remind us again and again that growing things change as they grow. This leaves us with some important questions: do we have a genuine desire to see the church grow? Will we rejoice in church growth? And will we embrace the changes this brings as normal and only to be expected?
God of mission, who alone brings growth to your church. Help our churches to grow in numbers, in spiritual commitment to you, and in service of our local community. And help us to graciously embrace the changes that accompany growth. Amen.