“How can we grow the church?”
This question is emblematic of the church’s greatest anxiety. Not just my own little church in Ramona, but just about every church in America. And when we ask, “how can we grow,” we’re usually talking about numerical growth. We think that our biggest problem is that there aren’t enough people, so we think the answer is to get more people.
While growth may be important for lots of good reasons, especially the simple reason that we encounter God together here and we want other people to experience that with us (seriously, you should invite your friends to church), I don’t actually think our biggest problem is “not enough,” nor do I think the answer to all our problems is “more.”
The frenetic obsession with “more, more, more” is actually part of the problem, not the solution. What I think we need, and what I consider to be the most important part of my job, is to pray. No, I don’t mean to pray for more people! I mean to truly pray and to receive prayer as a gift.
Prayer is not a means to an end, it’s an end in itself. Prayer is the simple act of being present before God. Prayer is actually an antidote to constantly wanting “more,” because true prayer isn’t about getting things, it’s not about having. Prayer is about being—being in relationship with God, being with God, being enough in the presence of God. Our biggest problem isn’t “not enough,” it’s that we think we are not enough. And the solution isn’t “more,” it’s knowing that we are “enough” already.
Prayer allows us to be in the presence of God without having to become anything more than who we are. The irony is, when we pray—when we are enough—God does transform us... we do “grow.” So perhaps that’s the trick to church growth—to stop trying to grow, to stop insisting that we need “more,” and to be present and open to God. When we realize that we’re enough already, that’s when God can do incredible things among us.