What does it mean to be alive? When I think about being alive, I think about growth. If something is growing, that means it is not going to stay the same.
I have a plant that sits on my desk. It is called a Lucky Bamboo. When I received this plant as a gift some time ago, it was three small shoots. I like this plant because it is a low maintenance plant. All I have to do is keep the container filled with water around the rocks and it seems to thrive on its own. The one thing that I have noticed is that the original shoots that varied in size from 1″ to 2″ are now 2″ to 5″ in height. It has also acquired more leaves on each of the shoots. The plant is not the same. Why? Because growth has taken place.
If my plant had shriveled up and become smaller with no leaves or curled up leaves, I would have said that the plant is dead. Therefore, I declare that lack of growth is equated with death. So if something is alive, then it will experience growth.
Since humans are living animals, I think the lessons from my plant can be applied to each human. If there is growth in a person (not just physical in this case) then there is evidence that the individual is alive. If growth has discontinued in a person’s life, then in most cases, the person is no longer alive. I have heard many people say that when a person stops learning and experiencing, the person stops growing. The other reality about growth is that it produces change. So change is inevitable with growth and growth is evidence of being alive.
Just like individual humans, the church is the same. If the church is alive, then it is going to be growing. If the church is not growing, then it must no longer be alive. Many people want to jump right to a change of numbers of people attending worship as a sign of a church growing. While this may be true in some cases, I do not think that numbers of attendees at worship services are the only indicators of church growth. In fact, I would argue that a more important measure of church growth is the way that the individuals associated to a particular congregation change in their faith. Since change indicates growth, this would be an important element to watch.
The lessons that I am learning from my plant this week, will be the focus on my future blog posts. So let me reiterate the starting lesson of today – Growth means something is alive and so measuring growth is a strong determinate of the life of an individual and/or church.