I'm pretty sure Jesus knew these "growing pains" would come our way. He was well aware that we would ache and moan as the change and growth begin to flow through the veins of the church. In Matthew 9:16-17, Jesus talked about the conflict of trying to "patch up" (or reconcile) the old with the new. And of course He was trying to tell his disciples that the "new life" He had come to bring couldn't fit into the old religious system. But this principle that Christ lays out here - that you can't put "new wine into old wineskins" - ripples out even further into our lives. And the reason these growing pains hit us so hard - and the resistance and the rub begin to wear us thin - is because (while we claim, declare, and even believe that we want "change" in our church) we're not ready for the more important "change" in our own lives. And that hurts!
I am very grateful (and thank the Lord often) that I am leading a church where "the way we've always done it" hasn't had much time to take root. But beware my friends, all you have to do is let self-centeredness and complacency water that seed for a few brief moments, and the roots will start to dig in and hold on for dear life! These are NOT the roots that we need digging "down deep into the soil" of our hearts! (See Eph. 3) These roots are deadly. They will begin to choke out joy, unity, and hunger for holiness. And make sure you take note: If the driving force in your spiritual life and in your mission in your church becomes protecting your preferences and securities, you are walking down a road that leads to misery! Yours...and everyone else's. To put it bluntly, if your church is growing but you're not, it's eventually going to get ugly.
These growing pains are normal. It hurts to grow! There's tension and friction when muscles and joints and sinews begin stretching and expanding. But the key for us as God's people is acknowledging the tension and the pain and the ache and walking through it together. Jesus made it perfectly clear that this was non-negotiable (see John 13 & 17). But often this is put in jeopardy because inevitably there are people carelessly floating into the "church" each week who have no greater aspiration than to simply be a "butt in a seat". They may even check the box that declares they want to be a "Member", while in reality, they would have preferred another box labeled "Attender". And if you're just looking to "attend" a church, somewhere along the line you've gotten the wrong idea of what this is all about. You've missed the point!
Are you feeling the growing pains? Hopefully you are. This will most likely mean that your church is reaching, building, and growing! Just make sure that as your church is growing, you are too.
Jesus - give us a hunger to know you more and make much of YOU in the way we live our lives and grow our churches!