"Growth" is measured in many legitimate ways. An increase in size; or advancement toward maturity; or development in ability; or an increase in understanding; or an advancement in productivity; or an expansion are all measurements of growth.

A crop growing, a child growing, a business growing, or a marriage growing all share some common factors. However, growth in each is measured by different standards. The same criteria for measuring growth in a marriage and a business, or in a child and a field of corn cannot and must not be used.

My life is [and has been] spent working among, with, and for Christians in congregations. All congregations I have known wanted to grow. Regardless of happenings in the past or present, those in a congregation want present and future growth to exceed past growth. Every congregation expects to grow.

I do not grasp expectations in congregational growth. Is growth just statistical, a matter of numbers? Are three baptisms a week growth, but a Christian individual using faith to overcome a crisis not growth? Is genuine repentance growth? Does growth occur in an individual, in a group, or both? Is quality of faith, or degree of spiritual maturity, or involvement, or service, or increased commitment, or improved value systems, or improved relationships growth? Is increased love, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness growth? Is growth a matter of perception? Is a congregation growing when over 50% of its members say growth is occurring?

My conclusion: there are many legitimate standards for measuring congregational growth. Some are statistical measurements. Some are not. Different spiritual realities are measured by different standards.

Bottom line: when people become more like Jesus in heart, attitude, spirit, and surrender, growth is occurring. Whether this occurs because people are coming to Christ or people are developing in Christ, congregation growth is occurring. "Becoming like Christ" is God's standard for measuring growth (Ephesians 4:13,15).

We want to grow in every aspect of our existence as Christ's body. Consider some personal observations. (1) Growth and comfort are mutually exclusive. Growth commonly creates discomfort. Comfort commonly inhibits growth. (2) People will want us to teach them when they see the value of our faith in our personal lives, our marriages, our behavior, and our character. (3) People must feel wanted, valued, and loved--as visitors or as members. (4) God's presence must obviously be with us, and worship must honor God. (5) Our spirituality must be as centered in our daily lives as it is in our assemblies and programs.

People will trust us to show them how to build a relationship with God when it is obvious to them that God teaches us how to build relationships with each other.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 29 April 2001

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