Growth or Stagnation

Growth or Stagnation The Francis Chan Conversation, Part 13

By Jonathan Allen, Sunday 29th September 2019 at 12:06 pm

Most people who have been around Tikkun for any length of time know that one of our key texts is this masterpiece of Paul, written to the Ephesians:

And He [that is, Messiah] 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 Messiah, 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 Messiah (Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV).

From this we derive the five-fold ministries of the apostle, the prophet,the evangelist, the shepherd or pastor, and the teacher.  These gifts are given by Yeshua for the building up of His body, so that we all become like Him in size of character, maturity, and so on.

Francis Chan sees a problem in the church.  He says: One of the most debilitating issues facing the Church is the lack of maturing her members.  Churches are filled with children who never grow up to become parents.  And they’re not expected to.  Many pastors expect their members to sit under their teachings till they die rather than training them to leave and shepherd others.”

Have you ever been part of a fellowship like that?  Most of us have at some time or other.  The leader’s teaching is so good, the worship so compelling, the congregation so sweet – we just want to stay and enjoy where we are.  Without active encouragement to grow, to put out new shoots, to take steps towards maturity, most folk will just sit there.  A level of intentionality is needed to make sure that everyone knows that everyone knows they are expected to grow, grow out and move on.  Perhaps even the leader if no-one else will, to form a new congregation.  Chan puts it this way:

My goal in shepherding has changed so much.  Long gone are the days when I am content with a bunch of people who sing loud, don’t divorce and give to missions.  I now want to know I can drop off any member of my church in a city and that person could grow in Jesus, make disciples and start a church … We must train our people to be independently dependent on the Holy Spirit.

If you are reading this over the High Holy Days, the time each year when Jews conduct a serious self-audit as to their standing before God and their progress in the ways of the kingdom, why not seek the Lord as to how He would have you move on during the next year, 5780.

If you are leader, then perhaps it is time to encourage congregation plants, raising up new and/or young leaders to send out to start new ministries.  Consult the Spirit and see who He points out, then start meeting with them regularly and pray together about how you can release them into service, or can equip them for release soon, or start them on the path of growth by giving them a vision and confidence to reach out for it.

If you are not currently a leader, then perhaps it is time to be one.  Ask the Spirit (and yourself) how could you leader, what your strongest gifts are.  Whether planting out in a new work, independent of your current congregation, or starting a new ministry within your congregation, or getting some training and equipping from/with your leaders, there is a calling on your life to grow to the stature of Messiah.  Ask your leader about it and see how you can work on it together.

At this time of year, we wish each other Shana Tovah! and look for God’s blessings.  Blessing comes from growth, from obedience, from outreach, from maturity.  Each year we need to be moving on and moving up, growing into the image of Yeshua our Messiah.  Don’t get left behind – and don’t get caught in your seat!

You can read Francis Chan’s text in full in “Letters to the Church”, David C Cooke Publishing, 2018, 0-8307-7658-8, pages 118-120.