The Pain of Growth

October 5, 2015

The Pain of Growth
You ever have growing pains? 
If you didn’t you probably know someone who did, maybe your own kids.   You know when you were around 8 or 9 you’d
wake up with your legs aching. 
Growing pains are kind of a generic diagnosis that covers a
variety of aches and pains when you are that age.  And it’s not actually bone pain, you know
from the bones growing it’s actually a muscular pain. 
This is interesting, one source wrote  “One symptom that
doctors find most helpful in making a diagnosis of growing pains is how a child
responds to touch while in pain. Kids who have pain from a serious medical
cause don’t like to be handled because movement can make the pain worse. But
those with growing pains respond differently — they feel better when they’re
held, massaged, and cuddled.”
The scripture that was read this morning detailed some of
growing pains that that the early church went through.
This is week 3 of our series on church growth.  In week one Stefan looked at “Why We Grow”
and highlighted three reasons, 1) Because Jesus Commands it 2) Because the
Bible Illustrates it 3) Because Reality Demands it. 
Last week I looked at “How We Grow” and we focused on how the
church and the pastor need to be prepared in order for growth to happen 
In both weeks we looked at the incredible rate of growth that
happened in the church in those first few months.  Literally thousands of people were coming to
know Jesus, were being baptized and living in community. 
Sometimes you will hear people wish that their church was
more like the New Testament Church or you’ll hear the pastor of a brand new
church say that their church is going to be a New Testament Church.  But in the midst of all of the celebration of
new life and church growth we stumble across the scripture that was read for us
earlier, in particular Acts 6:1 But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were
rumblings of discontent.
Rumblings of discontent? 
In the New Testament Church?  That
doesn’t seem right at all, I mean this is just months after the Holy Spirit had
come and the church had been born. 
Rumblings of discontent?
And the reason for the discontent, the reason the church
changed and didn’t remain the church that was described in Acts 2 wasn’t
because of sin, or pride or the devil. 
It was because of people.  People
who saw things from different perspectives, people who had different life
experiences, not better or worse life experiences, just different. 
Even if there had never been another person added to the
group the people themselves would have changed and that would have changed the
church.
We all change, that’s a given.  As we grow most of us will change.   My
world view, my church view and my political views have all changed through the
years.  Some would say they have evolved;
others would say they have de-evolved but regardless they have changed.
When Cornerstone was in its infancy a gentleman by the name
of Marlin Mull told me that there are two types of people in every church, “The
goers and the whoaers”.  And I’ve met
both types, you know what he meant, those who when you talked about new things
and changes they were willing to say “let’s go”. Today we call them early
adopters.
And there are others’ and they brace their feet and say
“Whoa, not on my watch”. 
And the goers and the whoaers were there two thousand years
ago as well.  There were those who
celebrated the growth of the church and those who grumbled about how things had
changed. 
I love the story about the old guy who was being interviewed
and he was asked “In your hundred and two years you’ve must have seen a lot of
changes?” to which he replied, “Yep, and I was against them all.”
For the rest of our time this morning we’re going to look at
Church Growing Pains.
Let’s be honest with each other and acknowledge that this
church cannot and will not grow without there being some pain. 
Through the years I have talked to pastors from growing
churches and it doesn’t matter if their church was a city church or a country
church they all had the same tale. 
Now in the beginning everyone was gung ho for growth, I mean
who wouldn’t be?  How could you be
against church growth?  That would be
wrong on so many levels.  But as the
church began to grow some people began to hesitate and baulk and some even left
the church to find one they would be more comfortable in. 
And the pastors all agreed that those who were opposed
weren’t bad people in most cases they were good people even godly people but
people who weren’t willing to pay the price. 
So it’s probably not fair to talk about church growth without
acknowledging that when you grow often there are growing pains.
And maybe you are thinking “Well maybe we shouldn’t grow
then.”   Every once in a while I’ll be
speaking to a senior and they will look at me and say with all sincerity “Don’t
get old!”  And my reply is “I have a
cousin who didn’t get old, it’s not working out so well for him.”
If the church is to survive and thrive it will need to
grow.  The other option is that it will
die.
So what happened in the early church to cause the rumblings?  They were experiencing pain.  But what type of pain?
1) There Was Pain Involved
in Change
.  Everything changes.  And growing churches change.  You can’t deny that.  It’s easy to look at Cornerstone and see a
static picture but it wasn’t always like it is today.
Twenty- one years ago we had 7 adults involved in a Sunday
Night Bible Study, that was Bedford Community Church.  Five of the seven are still actively involved
in our church today.
Eleven years ago we had changed our name to Cornerstone
Wesleyan Church and we were averaging 45 in our Sunday Morning Service.
10 years ago on this Sunday there were 37 of us who joined
together to worship at the Lebrun centre in Bedford.  15 of those 37 are still a part of
Cornerstone.  About six weeks after that
Sunday we changed again when we moved into our new building and then things
really began to changes. 
Within six months we were averaging 135 in our services.  Last year we averaged 295 in our two morning
service and afternoon service, and each Sunday we have people from around the
world worshipping with us live online. 
Things change.
Through the years some people have moved to other communities
and others have moved on to other churches, and other people have joined us,
and with every new person the church changes. 
A church of 7 is radically different than a church of 45
which is completely different than a church of 135, which is different than a
church of 295.  As we grow we realize
that it is a fact of life that the church will change and it won’t be like it
was before. 
Twenty years ago we were meeting in our living room at 184
Basinview Drive, since then we have met in a community centre then a movie
theatre and then back to the community centre, and at times when we got bumped
out of our rented facilities we worshipped at the Berkeley in Bedford, at
Basinview School, in a conference room in Sackville and at Fish Hatchery Park
under a tree. 
Eight years ago we had one service on Sunday mornings and we
had lots of room, now we have two services on Sunday morning and there are
times it is crowded.  Things change.
And you can only imagine how the early church felt, after the
resurrection there had been 120 who had gathered in the upper room then we read
in Acts 2:41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to
the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  That
was a change, and they hardly had time to catch their breath and we read in Acts 4:4 But many
of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers
now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.  Things change. 
Every new person, every new family will change the
personality of Cornerstone.  Think about
it we are not the same church we were before you arrived to make your
contribution.  It becomes like a recipe
that is changed by each additional ingredient. 
As some of you know, the Smart car is no more, long story but
it has been replaced with a Toyota Corolla. 
And because I was looking for basic transportation with decent mileage I
just bought the CE, which is Toyota speak for base model. 
The only option it has is A/C because I couldn’t get one
without A/C, I tried.  But if you added cruise
control, a nicer interior, heated seats and a back up camera to the the CE you
would now have a Corolla LE.  Add
navigation, a sun roof, push button start and satellite radio and you have the
technology edition.
They are all Corollas but every time you add something you
make it different.
And so the early church began to experience change and with
the change came some growing pains.  And
understand that as we grow then there will be changes, not necessarily bad
changes or for that matter even good changes. 
Just changes because change has to happen. 
Harold Wilson, former Prime Minister of
England said “He who rejects change is the
architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the
cemetery.”
And Robert J. Kriegel
author of “If it Ain’t broke Break It” reminds us “The only people who enjoy change are babies with
wet diapers and busy cashiers.”
And so the growing church will experience the pain of change.
2) There Was Pain involved
in Sacrifice
When you start reading about the early church you discover
that almost all of the descriptions talked about their giving habits. 
Contrary to popular opinion church growth doesn’t just
happen.  It requires sacrifice.  Sometimes lots of sacrifices.
One thing that people don’t like talking about in church is
money, but the truth is that churches can’t function without money.  The money has to come from somewhere and the
Scriptures are quite clear that the “somewhere” are the people of God.  There is a lot of difference between the
financial commitment needed to maintain a church and the financial commitment
needed to grow a church.
Before we moved into our building we were able to maintain
our church paying $500.00 a month rent for the community centre and some office
space, that’s pays the mortgage for two days now.
Ten years ago we had Denn part time, and Jason was very part
time and still a student, and Angela was leading the children’s and women’s
ministry as a volunteer. 
Things change, Now I’m full time and so are Stefan and
Marilyn. Mike is paid as part time but he’s always here and Deborah and Mike
White aren’t paid at all but they serve as Missions Pastor and Pastoral Care.    

By staffing for growth we are acting instead of reacting.  Whatever the dollar costs are they will not
be found immediately with new growth.  It
takes about two years for giving to catch up with numerical growth.  If our growth is coming through conversions
it can take that long for people to accept the concept of tithing, and if we
are picking up transfer growth then might need that time to build loyalties and
trust. 

Now understand that doesn’t mean that you have to wait for
two years to start giving, you can jump in anytime. 
The same goes for time and service.  As the church grows there will be a lag
between getting people in and getting people to the place where they are
willing to serve.  During the transition
period it stretches our people as they have to teach more children, lead larger
youth groups, take on the responsibilities of more Life Groups and begin new
ministries to cater to all these “new people”.
One of the greatest sacrifices that will need to be made is
the giving up of preferences. As the church grows it sometimes grows away from
the area that we are comfortable in and yet unless those changes are clearly
wrong in light of the Scriptures we may have to surrender them in order to see
continued kingdom growth. 
Twenty-Five years ago I read “The
Moncton Wesleyan Church Manifesto”. I don’t know if they still use it
but I still quote it and part of it says, “We might
have our personal preferences about a big church or a small church, a formal
service or an informal service, a long service or a short service, gospel music
or liturgical music, fiery preaching or quiet preaching.  However, if those preference dictate which
church we attend and support, then we can never experience God’s greatest
blessings, because our motives are selfish.”
And so a Growing Church will experience the pain of
sacrifice.  The sacrifice of money, of
time of serving and most importantly of preferences.
3) There was Pain Involved
in Growing
Now when you think of it, this is a really obvious statement
and to a certain degree goes back to the idea of our church changing but it is
different. 
One of the major reasons why some churches are small is
because they like being small.  Whether
we are willing to admit it or not there are a lot of nice things about being a
small church.  Probably the most obvious
advantage of a small church is that you know everyone. 
You don’t have to guess at names or occupations, and everyone
knows you.  As the church gets bigger you
start to notice there are people that you can’t quite put a name to, and there
are people who don’t know who you are. 
When a church is small each person has a fair amount of
control over what goes on.  After all,
one vote in twenty has a lot more sway then one vote in two hundred.  There is an intimacy in a small worship
service that is difficult but not impossible to capture in a larger
service.  In a small church you usually
know what is going on at any given time. 
I was thinking about this the other day, 10 years ago I would
suspect that Angela and I had been in the home of every family that made up
Cornerstone and probably had had every family from Cornerstone in our home, at
least once.  Today that would be
impossible.
 In a small church you
have more of the pastor.  One pastor has
more time for each person in a group of forty-five then he does in a group of
two hundred and ninety five.  There are close
to 500 people who now call Cornerstone their church home.
There were probably those in the early church who remembered
when the Apostles knew everybody’s name and knew all the widows and were always
there to help them out, and probably wondered why it had to change. 
I am the chair of the Kingswood Ratepayers and one of the
things we are always struggling with is development and I have discovered that
for most people the community was just the right size the week they moved
in.  And at that point it should have
stopped growing.  In the same way most
folks think the church was the perfect size right after they started attending. 
And size is relative, Cornerstone Wesleyan is one of the
larger churches in the Maritimes, as sad as that may seem 75 % of churches have
a smaller Sunday Morning attendance then we do, but there are some here who
don’t want to lose our intimate feeling.  
The problem remains that if we stay the same size because it
appeals to us, then our decision is based on selfishness.  We cannot see people won to Jesus Christ and
discipled without this church growing. 
The only way we cannot grow is by not leading people into a
saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and so we would have to make a conscious
decision to exclude people from the Kingdom of God in an attempt to make sure
that our church remains comfortable for some people. 
But listen to the command, not the suggestion but the command
of Jesus in Matthew
28:19-20
“Therefore, go and make disciples
of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and
the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have
given you.”   He was telling them to grow the
church.
It is a rule of nature that everything in nature is either
growing, dying or dead.
Peter Pan never wanted to grow up and I think that as
children we are often content to remain children.  But that isn’t what God had in His plan when
he created us, even though childhood can be a blast.
We can’t be a Peter Pan Church.  God has some great things in store for us as
we grow and mature, but let’s not ignore that there will be growing pains as we
grow.
As we stand on the threshold of a new era lets step across it
with our eyes open, not ignoring the problems but realizing that our God is
bigger than any problem we will encounter. 
Can I count on you, no let’s change that it’s not my church
and it never has been, can God count on you to do what needs being done to
reach our community for Christ? 
Sure there will be problems and some pain but none of them so
big that they can stop the people of God. 
As we grow we need to remember the words of Benjamin
Franklin who said “There are no gains
without pains.”
And the promise from Joshua 1:9  This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be
afraid or discouraged. For the LORD
your God is with you wherever you go.”
Many things have changed about the church over the past two
thousand years but we still pause for the sacrament of communion to remember
what Jesus did for us. We are the church, the bride of Christ, part of the
Family of God and this morning we are going to take the time to remember what
that means for us today.