Stretching and Growing at Lafayette
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” Galatians 4:19-20
In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, John Ortberg tells the story of a church member named “Cranky Hank.” Hank had been a Christian for more than 50 years when Ortberg began ministering at the church where Hank was a member. Hank was a cranky old guy. Years earlier, Hank had been a cranky young guy. Cranky Hank complained about everything. He complained about his family. He complained about his friends. He complained about his church. He would stop visitors in the church lobby and complain to them about the church.
Ortberg tells the story of Cranky Hank to illustrate the need for churches to focus on transformation and spiritual formation. The point of the story was not just to tell about cranky Hank, but to expose a church culture where Cranky Hank was never expected to grow and change. People at the church were more interested in settling for the minimum rather than anticipating spiritual transformation.
At Lafayette, we are passionate about creating an environment where people can stretch and grow and experience transformation and spiritual formation. While we want grace to be in the air we breathe at Lafayette, we also want to have the expectation of growth. Perhaps I should clarify that when I mention growth I am not talking about increased numbers of people who gather in a room for an hour on Sunday, rather, I am talking about growth in the sense of people growing, changing, morphing into the likeness of Jesus.
When Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia, he was concerned about false teachers “cutting in on” the Galatian Christians as they “ran their race” for Christ. In chapter four, you get a sense of the pastoral concern Paul had for these people. At the heart of Paul’s concern about these people being exposed to false, graceless teachers was his desire for them to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Paul had a passionate concern (he likened it to birth pangs) for the Christians to grow and change until “Christ is formed in you.”
At Lafayette we want to raise expectations for all of us. This does not mean we want everybody to be different tomorrow. This does not mean we don’t want to be bothered with people who are struggling or whose lives are messy. At Lafayette we want to accept people right where they are and with grace and love encourage them to stretch and grow. Growth is not instant. Growth is a process that takes time, energy, and effort.
Some churches have high expectations for change. Often they become legalistic and lifeless. Some churches have an atmosphere of love and grace. Often they become sloppy and undisciplined. At Lafayette, we want to have an expectation of growth and change without losing our emphasis on love and grace. At Lafayette we want to do this without being legalistic or sloppy. Can we do it? Well, we are never going to do it without trying, are we?
Ready to stretch and grow?