A hallway conversation with one of the leaders in the church reminded me of how growth brings grief. And it might help to say it out loud. Grief comes when we feel loss. It’s true when we lose a loved one or a job or a dream. It happens when our kids leave home. But here’s the surprise. We may also grieve what we lose in the church as the church grows.
Sure, we usually celebrate growth in the church too. We cheer when people come to faith, get baptized or connect in a small group. We tell the stories of changed lives with the gusto of a young father telling of his son’s first homerun. The buzz of a growing church gives us a sense that we are caught up in what God is doing in our little corner of the world. And it’s good.
Grief sneaks in the back door as the church grows. Those who serve in ministries, give obediently and sacrificially, pray the prayers and care for the baby Christians in the church relish the kind of connection they have with one another and with church leaders. This connection keeps us inspired and becomes a treasure to us. This connection is what becomes vulnerable as the church grows.
In our case, we started two additional campuses and we have six weekend services. Some of the people who were key leaders five years ago rarely see one another any more. They might be at different campuses or services. Some of the previous connection is gone.
So while we celebrate the blessings that come with growth, some of us secretly and quietly grieve. We miss the way things used to be. And we know that it might not be like it was ever again. I might not see the same people or feel as connected to some staff person or leader.
So let me give a shout out to the long timers, those who have been at Clear Creek Community Church for five, ten and even fifteen years. I’m grateful for their courage to face the grief that comes with growth…again and again. Not everyone can handle it. Some have left the church for a smaller church. But many have stayed after they have grieved and then grown into the kind of leader that helps the church “lead unchurched people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus” in the next season of the journey together.
Let’s just agree to say it out loud. When, by God’s grace, Clear Creek Community Church is ten campuses in close proximity to the people we are trying to reach in the “4 B” area, there will be some grief along the way! But the grief will not compare to the joy to be revealed in the last day—and many of the days between this one and that.