I’m convinced that there are a number of growth screens working to obscure reality for disciples of Jesus. Growth screens are things that convince you that you are growing as a disciple by pointing to something that is not fundamental to discipleship. A growth screen will point to an area of secondary importance and then tell you, “see, you’re growing because you’ve grown in this [secondary] area.”
I think those most vulnerable to believing growth screens are Christian leaders and pastors. Their growth screens are most dangerous because their visible “work” (or at least the fruit of their work) is most outwardly associated with being spiritual.
When a pastor overcomes a leadership barrier by becoming more effective he easily convinces himself that he is also growing the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Craig Groeschel calls this being a full-time pastor and part-time Christian. It plays out something like this:
- by overcoming a church attendance barrier the leaders says to himself “we’re reaching more people so obviously I’m growing spiritually”
- by overcoming a church team-leadership barrier the leaders says to himself “our leaders are more connected and team-oriented so I’m clearly growing spiritually”
- by overcoming a preaching-with-impact barrier the leaders says to himself “my preaching is more effectively bringing people to Jesus so I’m growing spiritually”
And that is why I would say this:
I think big problems arise when leaders mistake growth in leadership effectiveness for spiritual growth.
If you are going to follow Christ to deeper and deeper levels of real spiritual growth, you are going to need a ruthless willingness to tear down growth screens. I believe there is a simple way that Scripture calls us to do this. Its called repentance.
Repentance tears down growth screens. Repentance searches for the truth behind the truth. Like a hammer in a house of mirrors, repentance keeps shattering all the false images in search of the true image. It mistrusts every perception and thought and external prop right into the hands of God. It lights everything on fire and keeps what doesn’t burn up.
For a leader, when the external prop of a growing leadership capacity is repeatedly set on fire, the gold of nearness to God and hungry praying and soul brokenness and thirst for righteousness and invisible/unknown loving acts and declining irritation with peoples’ brokenness and increasing hopefulness for the coming Kingdom and comfort with being treated like a servant rather than merely being known as one and detachment from being important and distaste for being noticed and recognized for work accomplished begin to appear as true measures of real spiritual growth.
Does that mean leaders shouldn’t grow in their leadership capacity. Of course not. That would be bad stewardship of God’s good gifts. Grow in your leadership–you must or you’ll be found unfaithful.
But don’t fool yourself. Growing church attendance does not necessarily equal big God-heartedness in the leader. Big preaching does not automatically equal big personal love and devotion to Jesus in the leader’s heart. Big leadership mojo and effective placement of staff and volunteers does not equal vibrant living faith in the secret heart of the leader.
Christian leader: you and I need the heart of a tax collector and the discipline of a Pharisee.