Wow, that’s pretty direct.  Blunt is maybe more accurate.  I’ve heard the statement used in business contexts and it invites listeners to grow their organizations.  Usually “growth” involves revenues, or contacts, or production, or sales in general.

Most who read this are in church contexts.  Some of you read it into your own personal context.  Peter was saying something to all of us when he invites us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  Certainly he has an expectation of some kind of growth.  I have discussions with friends and inevitably it breaks down into a debate over “qualitative growth” versus “quantitative growth”.  I had a great time with a pastor friend who pigeon-holed me recently.  He called me the “ABC Executive Director”.  I thought he was implying that my world view was simplistic.  Turns out he thought I was quite clever but that I was only interested in three things—Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash.  Everyday is a school day and I learned something new that day.  Hmmmm.

But let me go deeper rather than broader in my thinking.  What about qualitative growth?  Do Christians “grow or die” spiritually?  My theology has a hard time in letting “die” be the operative outcome of not growing.  But I wonder, if Christians don’t “grow”, do they “shrink”?    Muscles that don’t get exercise atrophy.  Brains that don’t get used do go to sleep (ask my 84 year old mother about that as she completes her daily crossword experience.  It’s all about keeping a healthy mind in aging years).  Relationships that aren’t worked on usually aren’t as strong after a while.  So, I am willing to say that growing is a preferable choice to not growing.

It’s a struggle for me to keep growing.  I don’t read as much or as often as I used to.  I don’t exercise my faith in the way that I know brings strength.  I live in the Christian bubble filled with Christian leaders, Christian pastors, Christian situations.  I grew a lot in various seasons in times past.  Part of it was the season of life.  A teenager grows like a weed.  A young pastor grows like a young sapling.  But something happens and growth levels off—and I worry that shrinkage starts.  Growth is hard and not growing is easier.  If you want to grow muscles, you do weight training.  (Have you tried lifting weights lately?  That’s painful).  And if you want to keep growing you need to change your weightlifting patterns.  I think that means if I want to grow as a person I need to work hard.  If I want to grow more, I need to change up my work hard patterns.  How have I been leading?  What will I change up to stimulate growth?  What’s been my pattern in my marriage—what will I change up to stimulate growth here?  Even with regards to self growth, what will I alter to give more of myself into growing as a person.

How about applying the above to congregations, or groups of people?  Amazing how hard it is for them to grow.  It’s just easier to keep repeating the same activities.  A challenge to leaders out there—if you are asked to lead your organization, how are you helping it grow?  How are you modelling it as a person so that they can see an example of what you are speaking about?  Grow?  Or Shrink.