On Growing Pains

Brothers and Sisters,

If you hadn’t noticed, God has blessed us with a steady stream of new visitors over the past few months. The Lord is on the move at Hickory Grove and our sanctuary has been fuller than we’ve seen for a while. Praise God for these signs of new vitality in our church!

As exciting as it is, growth always brings challenges. A few years back, a fellow pastor illustrated those challenges for me by way of Thanksgiving dinner.

Imagine your “usual” Thanksgiving—the food, the family, the chair you’ll sleep in after the meal, etc. Now, imagine a family knocks on your door just before dinner. Their house has burnt down and they have nowhere else to go.

Do you take them in? Of course, you do. Gladly!

As glad as you are to host, though, you start to notice a few differences in your day. You lose some elbow room. You don’t get to call dibs on the drum stick like usual. Your wife makes you keep your pants on after dinner. And, being a good host, you give up your easy chair.

You’re not really upset about any of this. Again, you’re glad to do it. The pros of hosting this family far outweigh the cons. And, yet, you miss your usual Thanksgiving. You have genuinely suffered the loss of the old in order to welcome the blessing of the new.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Having all kinds of new people come to our church is like having the displaced family show up on Thanksgiving. We are genuinely glad to have them. We want them. We praise the Lord for them. We rejoice in them.

Amen and amen.

Yet, if we’re honest, some of us are going to suffer the loss of the old in order to welcome in the new—if we aren’t suffering it already. It’ll look different for us all. Maybe it’ll be your favorite pew. Or, perhaps, it’ll be the familiarity of seeing the same set of faces every Sunday.

I don’t know what it will look like for you, but I do want to encourage you to deal honestly and tenderly with your heart about it. The Lord is doing something in our church, and we want to get on board with it—no matter how uncomfortable it may make us. But the way to do that isn’t to hide the pain and pretend like we don’t miss our easy chair.

There is no growth without some measure of pain. God calls us to take that pain directly to Him. If we don’t, our discomfort will turn to resentment, our resentment to bitterness, and that bitterness will harden our hearts against the new thing He is doing in our midst.

This is an encouraging time for our church. If you find it to be discouraging in any way—no matter how small—I invite you to say that in prayer to God and out loud to me or one of the elders. Neither He nor we will condemn you. Instead, we will suffer the loss together, trusting that God will patiently open our eyes to see that our present sufferings—as real as they may be—are ultimately not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.

Here’s to an exciting year of gospel ministry for God’s glory and the good of our city!

In Christ alone,

Pastor Kenny