We often think of growth as the magic bullet. More people must equal more money, more ministry power, more outreach, bigger, better, greater. And it may well mean those things on some level, though not always. But equally, more people means more problems, more conflict, more issues to address. Praying for growth is great, but it is most definitely a dangerous thing to pray.
Everybody likes growth, don’t they? Most of us seem to want our churches to grow. And by growth, I think we often mean qualitatively in maturity in Christ but typically mean quantitively in number of people. Growth is often what we’re after.
As such, it is not uncommon to hear people praying for growth. Asking the Lord to grow our people. Asking him to grow our church. Asking him to cause our people to know and love him more. Asking him to bring new people in who will come to know him and serve alongside us in the ministry. I doubt there are many churches who are not praying prayers like these, in some way, shape or form.
But few of us realise what dangerous prayers these are to pray. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not sinful prayers. There’s nothing wrong with praying these things at all. Assuming we are praying them because we are concerned about the glory of God being seen in his church, of course we want our people to grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to grow up to spiritual maturity in him and for unbelievers to come, hear the gospel and put their trust in Jesus. These are good things to pray. But they are dangerous things to pray.
What do you think happens when people in your church start to become more godly and Christlike? I mean, practically speaking. What will happen? We often imagine that will make our life easier. They will become more active members of the church. They will engage with the Word on levels we had not seen before from them. All entirely possible.
But just think about what that means for you for a moment. More Christlike, godly people tends to means our deficiencies will be noticed where they previously weren’t. Not in a nasty or malevolent way, but in a way that people who want to glorify God notice when things are not as God-glorifying as they might be. People hungrier to engage the Word in ways they didn’t before means more awkward questions, thorny issues being wrestled with, demands of sermons scratching where they now itch.