Raising kiddos and starting a church are weirdly similar at times. They keep you up at night. They consume a lot of resources, be it money, time, energy, or food. They are crazy hormonal and totally irrational at times. And they can be stunningly beautiful works of God.
I am the caretaker of a five-month-old daughter and a five-year-old church. Of the two, currently the daughter is causing more stress. She’s small. Really really cute small. And while I enjoy small and cute things, her doctor is not so enamored because she’s not following the growth chart. In fact, she’s not even on the growth chart.
So we’re troubleshooting. We’re supplementing. We’re seeing specialists. We’re rearranging feeding schedules. We’re doing everything we can to make her get bigger, to cause her to grow.
And she’s happy. She loves people. She’d smile at the Grinch, if ever they should meet. She teaches us innocence and awe. I see God in her eyes when she looks at her big brother and grins from ear to ear…and she’s small.
I believe she’s fine and then I worry she’s not. I waver between an easy-going nonchalance and an anxious pessimism. I think she’s telling us that she’s fine and then I listen to her doctor say she’s not. I want her to be on the growth chart and I loathe the growth chart.
Before starting a church, we listened to all the “experts” tell us how to do it…the milestones we needed to hit, the money required in the bank account, the critical mass to sustain momentum. No lie, someone gave us a checklist of responsibilities for the first church service and one, eternally important role was that of “Cookie Monitor.”
If you look for it, you can find a growth chart for your church, a metric if you will. You can compare and analyze, watch for trends, and even find your personal worth in it. I know I’ve heard of other churches and their rapid growth, swanky facilities, and charismatic leadership. I’ve felt jealous of their situation, disappointed in my own, and wondered if we’re doing everything wrong.
Why aren’t we growing? Why aren’t we baptizing people? Why does everybody seem to be tired, passionless, and perpetually skeptical?
If I allow it, these questions will eat at me. But when I catch myself, these questions cause me to remember.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor 3:5-7, NRSV)
This is a “remember” chapter for me. The image of God as grower is one I must remember. Otherwise, I think more of myself than I should and things go downhill quickly.
If I’m not the grower, my role is simple: to be a servant. The one that plants. The one that waters. All in service of one greater.
My role is the one that faithfully cares for and nurtures the life that comes, both in my daughter and in my church. I do not cause growth but I trust in the God that does.