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For the first time in my life (since my graduation from college) I’m planning for the rest of my life, which means I’m looking at my retirement years.  And by “retirement years” I mean the years during which most people would retire, but I will be working, BEHAVING like I’m retired.

The boys, MY boys, are now grown and in their twenties/thirties.  They live close by, but in separate homes, creating new lives.  Just when and how did all that happen?

As I look at my boys, at their maturity, and as I listen to them speak, I realize that they have become strong, able, somewhat wise, and grown quickly beyond anything I would be able to teach them or show them…how did that happen? 

How does ANYONE “grow”?  My boys grew, not because their mother and I stood over them every day and commanded it through our words.  They didn’t grow and mature because we focused on their growth They grew because we focused on their nurture.  We fed them, made sure that they got enough rest.  We educated them and made sure that they were surrounded and protected by educators who reflected and taught what we believed to be the truth.  We gave them extra protection and help when they were weak.  We gave them space to walk and run when they were strong. As a result, they grew.  Their growth was, and is, a result of being nurtured.

Church growth is a subject of thousands of books and even more theories.  In my congregation, we face the question that many other churches ask: how can we survive without growth?  Some churches and pastors believe that focusing on growth itself is the answer, with an effort to push and pull people into the pews.  Unfortunately, some congregations focus so inch on reaching outside the congregation that they forget their true purpose: Worship.  When much of the energy is spent on advertising and gaining numbers the core of church sometimes (not always) is neglected.  It’s true in commerce, and it’s true in church:  all of the best, cleverest and most expensive advertising available to a restaurant won’t do anything but get customers in the door…ONCE, but if the food is lousy, no advertising available will get them to return.  Good food is its best advertisement.

My philosophy, which is probably flawed and lacking because I just don’t know everything, is that NURTURE causes growth, even in congregations.  People will be naturally and supernaturally drawn to a place where there is love, where they are fed, where they in turn have an opportunity to feed, and where they are accepted and have a place.  When God’s presence is sincerely felt, no one can help but advertise.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.