Pastor Ian suggests five ways we can embrace the growth and its associated pain that God is blessing GBC with.
They would wake me up in the middle of the night. Pain in my shins, aches in my thighs, hurt in my arms. Since my mum was a nurse, I expected she could offer me some relief. Since she was my mother, I expected she would lend me some comfort. Instead she simply spoke the truth, “Oh Dear, those are just growing pains ... you’ll get over it.” It was a difficult truth for me. I have never not wanted to grow. I’ve always wanted to be bigger and taller and stronger. But it seemed profoundly inconvenient to me that growth was accompanied by pain. And then it was even more disappointing when the pain ceased and I stopped growing.
I know of no church that doesn’t want to grow. Church growth consultancy is a multi-million dollar industry. My library back in Vancouver is full of ‘Church Growth’ books, all of which espouse the obvious benefits of church growth in terms that amplify God’s mission in His world.
But none of them talk about the aches. Or the pain.
Let’s be honest, there are growing pains when God in His mercy brings growth to His church. Here are some of the issues that can cause discomfort, and some of the feelings we may sense as God brings growth to Grace:
Care Issues. "The pastors don’t care about me." When a church is small, members enjoy the consistent, caring attention of a pastor. But as the church grows, it becomes humanly impossible for the pastor (or even the pastoral team) to give attention to everyone all the time. This can be painful.
Comfort Issues. "I’m singing strange songs with strange people." This is a fact. If you are in church long enough, you will begin to sing songs you don’t know… with people you also don’t know. You inevitably miss the days when you knew the songs and the people with whom you sang.
Control Issues. "My opinions don’t matter anymore." None of us like change, especially when it feels like we’ve been given no input. Particularly in a Baptist church, it can feel like the more new people come, the more their many votes diminish the significance of my one vote. At some point it can feel like I am losing influence, and I don’t like that.
Here are several suggestions each of us may want to consider in the days when the good growth feels bad:
Decide that even in these moments of discomfort, God is both sovereign and good. And if this is true, then even this (uncomfortable) growth is for my good and His glory. That means that in my discomfort, the Lord of the Harvest is testing me and growing me to be more deeply devoted to Him.
Ask God for the courage to move beyond the safety of your circle. Decide that rather than stick to ‘my people’, you will brave a conversation with one new person each week. Get their name and one thing about them that you will remember. More than that, consider joining a new small group. As churches grow, pastoral care is primarily done through the small group ministry.
Engage in the ministry of conversation. Though most of us may not be extroverts, all of us can in some small way be used of God to welcome newcomers. Here is a short example of how you might initiate a conversation:
- Introduce yourself: "I don’t think we’ve met. My name is ___________."
- Get them talking: "How did you find out about Grace?”
- Discover something about their spiritual journey: "How did you first begin to be curious about spiritual things?”
Determine that you won’t eat lunch alone. Make strategic lunch appointments. By ‘strategic’ I mean there is only one strategy: to share the same space with one or two (or three) people and to get to know them better. Realising that many new people will not have a car, choose eating locations that can easily be accessed by foot or by MRT (i.e. the Circuit Road food stalls, or for aircon, the SingPost Centre at Paya Lebar).
Find comfort in His Word. In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”. There is great comfort when we remember that neither the growth, nor the unity comes as a result of our work or the pastors’ strategy. God gives and He equips. Growth and Unity are outcomes of His work in and through us. That, we should celebrate!
- We offer our deepest condolences to Gerald, Fidelia and the entire Lau Family over the loss of Gerald’s mother, Irene. Pray that they will comforted by the knowledge that she is now safe in her Lord’s embrace, far beyond the reach of pain and tears.
- EQUIP this Saturday: The Biblical Big Picture of Growth. Please remember to park off-site as there is an external wedding that morning!
- On 21 September, at 2:30 pm we will have the unusual privilege of celebrating God’s goodness to us in the Ordination service for Pastor Eugene Low. Please help assist us as we plan for our tea buffet by confirming your attendance with Carrie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Pauline (email@example.com).