Dr. Doug Posey
Do you remember the year you entered high school? Being a “freshman” back in my day was definitely seen as being the bottom of the totem pole. Kids were far less politically correct then than now. That first day on campus, we were identified as members of the incoming class by having to wear a paper bib around our necks as we navigated the new campus and acclimated ourselves to an environment quite different from what we had just gotten used to dominating. In jr. high we had made it to the top, albeit only two years-worth. Now, at fourteen and a late-bloomer, it was time to start over as upperclassmen wrote insults on our bibs. Nonetheless, it was a fresh start.
Today, I reminisce about that pivotal age because it serves as a milestone. Most of us do remember age fourteen, the common age for entering high school. It launches us into four years that affect the direction of the rest of our lives. It’s really a time of beginnings. I’m thinking about it today because this week it’s been fourteen years since our church held its first worship service in a gym. Many church plants don’t last even two years. Beyond five or so, the experts say you’re here to stay. At fourteen, figuratively speaking, we’ve just entered our freshman year.
We like to choose themes each year for our church. This year it was “Grow Again.” Just as they do with people, growth patterns vary with churches. Our church has been no different. My freshman year I was definitely a wimpy kid. At 5’ 10”, I only weighed 110 pounds. My dream was to play basketball, but I definitely wasn’t power-forward, or starting center material. My ball-handling skills didn’t qualify me to play point guard either. I tried out, but the freshman coach did the wise thing; he cut me.
If you want to succeed in basketball, buckle down, work hard on fundamentals, and grow—a lot. Surging to 6’7” by my senior year didn’t hurt, but we all know height alone doesn’t mean success on the court. We also know in the church that growing to vast numbers of people can be done, but people filling seats is not the only measure of success. So, our theme of Grow Again is not primarily a numerical consideration.
We had a rapid numerical growth spurt within our first five years or so. Many were impressed. Unfortunately, without growth in the area of fundamentals, numerical growth is impressive, but shallow and unfruitful. When we picked Grow Again as a theme, entering our “freshman year” as a church, it is time to work on the fundamentals like never before. I believe as we look back, this will prove to be a milestone year for Living Oaks.
Rather than focusing on growing numerically, first we are seeking to follow the mandates of Scripture in working with the Lord in growing a healthy congregation. We have a responsibility to help God’s people “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The spiritual health of the people entrusted to our care is of primary importance to the staff, elders and other key leadership of LOC.
Next, we feel called to grow an influencing congregation. Jesus told His disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). We are commissioned as a church to grow in our influence locally and ultimately to, “the remotest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
To grow in the areas of health and influence, we are going to implement a comprehensive discipleship pathway for everyone who calls Living Oaks their home. This is an exciting opportunity that we are currently piloting as a staff and leadership team and should help tie together these important elements of our Grow Again theme. In the meantime, much is being done to bolster the fundamentals of growth for health and influence.
Finally, if we become a biblically healthy and an influencing flock, the potential for the Lord to add to our numbers will follow. Healthy sheep reproduce sheep! This is the third element of the Grow Again theme, to be an expanding congregation. If we’re doing as God has designed for His church, we’d love to see Him bless as He did His church in Acts, as they were, “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Fourteen is a milestone for Living Oaks. I believe God has much in store as He moves us into our high school years!
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”